Defense Secretary James Mattis on Saturday blasted the Chinese government for deploying military equipment to disputed areas of the South China Sea, saying Beijing’s militarization of the region had prompted the U.S. to rethink its “cooperative stance” on certain issues. The U.S. decided to disinvite Beijing from the world’s largest annual naval exercise later this month because of its build-up of military equipment near disputed islands, a move which was intended to frighten neighbors in the region, he said. “Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” Mattis said at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. “I believe there are much larger consequences in the future, when nations lose the rapport of their neighbors,” he told Bloomberg News. His remarks come amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, with the White House prompting new fears of a trade war earlier this week by announcing tariffs on Chinese imports.