The Trump administration escalated its actions against China on Monday by stepping squarely into one of the most sensitive regional issues dividing them and rejecting outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea. The administration presented the decision as an attempt to curb China’s increasing assertiveness in the region with a commitment to recognizing international law. But it will almost certainly have the more immediate effect of further infuriating the Chinese, who are already retaliating against numerous US sanctions and other penalties on other matters, the AP reports. Previously, US policy had been to insist that maritime disputes between China and its smaller neighbors be resolved peacefully through UN-backed arbitration.
But in a statement released Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognized waters to be illegitimate. The shift does not involve disputes over land features that are above sea level, which are considered to be "territorial" in nature. "The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire," Pompeo said. Although the US will continue to remain neutral in territorial disputes, the announcement means the administration is in effect siding with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, all of which oppose Chinese assertions of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding contested islands, reefs, and shoals.
(Read more South China Sea