Washington, 14 July 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The United States formally rejected a slew of Chinese claims in the South China Sea, in an official position paper issued Monday, as Washington ratchets up its confrontation with Beijing.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed that the US would support allies and partners in the region, while labelling as “unlawful” a series Beijing’s claims to offshore resources outside of its own internationally recognized waters.
He accused China of carrying out a “campaign of bullying” against states in the area.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a key shipping lane believed to be rich in marine and mineral resources. It has built artificial islands with military-capable facilities over disputed reefs and outcrops in the area.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also assert claims in the sea.
“America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The Chinese embassy in the US later hit back, calling the US statement “completely unjustified” and saying Beijing is making efforts to resolve disputes over the South China Sea through direct negotiation with the countries involved.
A statement from the embassy spokesman posted on Twitter said the US paper “deliberately distorts the facts and international law” and that it “exaggerates the situation in the region and attempts to sow discord between China and other littoral countries.”
The move by Washington comes amid heightened tensions between the world’s two largest economies, including over Hong Kong and internal human rights issues in China, such as the internment of Muslim minorities.
The US recently irked Beijing by carrying out naval exercises in the South China Sea.
Washington seized on a ruling by an international tribunal in 2016 that determined there is no legal basis for Beijing’s claims over most of the South China Sea.