The Trump administration rejected almost all of China’s demands in the South China Sea on Monday – which led to one of the most delicate regional problems in Asia and further escalated tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The government presented the decision as an attempt to curb China’s increasing assertiveness in the region with a commitment to recognize international law. But it will almost certainly have the immediate effect of further angering the Chinese, who are already taking revenge on numerous US sanctions and other punishments in other matters.
It also happens that President Trump has come under increasing fire because of his response to the COVID-1
“Today we are strengthening US policies in an important, controversial part of this region – the South China Sea,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press release. “We make it clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea are completely illegal, as is its bullying campaign to control it.”
Pompeo added: “Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of the Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, to bully them from offshore resources, to assert unilateral rule and to replace international law with” power makes right “.”
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Previously, US policy was to insist that maritime disputes between China and its smaller neighbors be peacefully resolved through United Nations-sponsored arbitration. However, in a statement released on Monday, Pompeo said that the US regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognized waters as illegal. The shift does not include disputes over land features that are considered “territorial”.
Although the U.S. will remain neutral in territorial disputes, the announcement means that the government is actually on the side of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, all of which support China’s claims of sea sovereignty over disputed islands, reefs, and areas oppose swarms.
“There are clear cases in which [China] claims sovereignty over areas that no country can legally claim, ”the State Department said in an information sheet attached to the statement.
The announcement was released one day after the fourth anniversary of an arbitration decision in favor of the Philippines that dismissed China’s maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighboring reefs and shallows.
China has refused to recognize this decision, which it dismissed as “fraud,” and has refused to participate in the arbitration. It has continued to oppose the decision with aggressive measures that have brought it into territorial relations with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in recent years.
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As a result, however, the government has no valid maritime claims to the fish and potentially high-energy Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The United States has repeatedly stated that areas that are considered part of the Philippines are covered by a mutual defense agreement between the United States and the Philippines if they are attacked.
Pompeo not only reiterated its support for this decision, but also said that China is not legally legal for James Shoal near Malaysia, the waters around Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei, and Natuna Besar off Indonesia can claim. As such, the United States will consider any Chinese fishing vessel or oil exploration in these areas to be illegal.
The announcement came amid growing tensions between the U.S. and China over a range of issues, including the coronavirus pandemic, human rights, Chinese politics in Hong Kong and Tibet, and trade, which have brought relations to a standstill in recent months.
However, the practical effects were not immediately clear. The United States is not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which sets out a dispute settlement mechanism. Nevertheless, the State Department determined that China and its neighbors, including the Philippines, are parties to the contract and should respect the decision.
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China has attempted to base its claim to the sea by building military bases on coral atolls, which has caused the United States to sail its warships through so-called missions through the region. The United States is not entitled to the waters, but has been using warships and airplanes for decades to patrol and promote freedom of navigation and overflight on the busy waterways.
Last week, China angrily complained that the US was flexing its military muscles in the South China Sea by doing joint exercises with two US carrier groups on the strategic waterway. The Navy said the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, along with their accompanying ships and aircraft, conducted exercises “to maximize air defense capabilities and expand the range of long-range precision launchers in a rapidly evolving environment.” . “
China claims almost the entire South China Sea and routinely rejects any US military action in the region. Five other governments claim all or part of the ocean, which ships around $ 5 trillion worth of goods each year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.