Washington strengthens U.S. policy on South China Sea, rejects Chinese claims of maritime empire

In a significant development that sends a strong message to the Chinese leadership, Washington has rejected all claims made by Beijing in the South China Sea.

So far, China has not offered any coherent legal basis for its ambitious claims in the South China Sea and since years it has used intimidation against its neighbors to usurp territories from other Southeast Asian coastal states, said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement.

“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” said Pompeo in a lucidly clear strong message.

Washington has long opposed China’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, and has regularly sent warships through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation there.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” said Pompeo.

China has made territorial claims against all of its neighbors, including India and Russia.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy in the United States said Washington’s accusation is “completely unjustified” while adding, “Under the pretext of preserving stability, (the U.S.) is flexing muscles, stirring up tension and inciting confrontation in the region”.

The U.S. bipartisan move has the backing of the top Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Continued ambiguity with respect to our policy on China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea no longer serves the shared interests of the Indo-Pacific region, given China’s aggressive actions and refusal to abide by international law,” said Senators Jim Risch and Bob Menendez and Representatives Eliot Engel and Michael McCaul in a statement.

In the last six months, the relationship between the two countries has become increasingly fraught over China’s handling of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, concentration camps in Xinjiang and over the imposition of its draconian security law in Hong Kong.

Beijing has made claims over 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, where countries including the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan Malaysia, and Vietnam also have claims. Through this resource rich waterways trade worth around $3 trillion passes every year. China has created artificial islands and have placed military installation on them while claiming its intentions are peaceful.

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