Mark Esper said that he had not given any orders to withdraw US troops from South Korea, but the Pentagon will look at forces around the world. Esper says he hopes to visit China by end of 2020

Washington: US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday he hoped to visit China by the end of the year to discuss areas of mutual interest, even as he condemned Chinese maritime activity in the South China Sea.

"Before the year is out, I hope to visit the PRC for the first time as secretary in order to enhance cooperation on areas of common interest, establish the systems necessary for crisis communications and reinforce our intentions to openly compete in the international system," Esper said, using an acronym for the People's Republic of China.

"China's military exercise on and around disputed features are apparently inconsistent with its commitment set out in 2002 declaration on the conduct of parties in South China Sea," he said.

"We are obviously monitoring the situation between India and China very closely, what's happening along the Line of Actual Control and we are very pleased to see both sides are trying to de-escalate the situation," said Esper.

Esper also said that he had not given any orders to withdraw US troops from South Korea, but the Pentagon was looking at forces around the world.

Esper said China is aggravating situation with Taiwan and that US ams sales to Taiwan will continue.

Esper also touched upon India-US relations.

"I want to highlight our increased defence cooperation with India, one of the most important defence relationships of 21th century. We conducted our first-ever joint military exercise last November. As we speak today, USS Nimitz is conducting combined exercise with Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean, demonstrating our shared commitment to stronger naval cooperation & support to a free and open Indo-Pacific," he said.