White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday “there will be near-term and long-term consequences” in response to a reported build-up of defense systems in the South China Sea.
Sanders said the Trump administration has “raised concerns” about the measures “directly” with Chinese authorities.
The remarks came in response to reports that Chinese officials have installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on several of its outposts west of the Philippines in the South China Sea, a hotly-contested area in east Asia.
“We’re well aware of China’s militarization of the South China Sea,” Sanders said during the White House press briefing.
She added: “We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this, and there will be near-term and long-term consequences, and certainly we'll keep you up to date.”
Last November, President Donald Trump offered to mediate disputes in the region, which has faced competing claims by various Asian nations, including China.
“If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know,” Trump said during a visit to Vietnam last year.
In recent weeks, Chinese and U.S. officials have largely focused their public exchanges on trade matters after Trump moved to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports despite opposition from foreign officials.