In a much anticipated press release issued by the U.S. Department of State, the incumbent Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has slammed Chinese territorial ambitions in the South China Sea (SCS).
Beginning “The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today we are strengthening U.S. policy in a vital, contentious part of that region — the South China Sea. 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” the U.S. government set their stall out early.
With comments that went on to affirm a belief held by billions across the region that “Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with “might makes right”” Pompeo has raised the ante in the region at a time China is also facing international criticism for its intrusions into India on its southern border.
Pulling no punches, the statement went on to say “The PRC’s predatory world view has no place in the 21st century.”
“The PRC has no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region. Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its “Nine-Dashed Line” claim in the South China Sea since formally announcing it in 2009. In a unanimous decision on July 12, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention – to which the PRC is a state party – rejected the PRC’s maritime claims as having no basis in international law. The Tribunal sided squarely with the Philippines, which brought the arbitration case, on almost all claims.”
Beijing has yet to respond to the comments by one of the United States’ top officials, but as Asia wakes on Tuesday, July 14th, knowing the White House has stood up to China with “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. We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose “might makes right” in the South China Sea or the wider region” will be making headlines around the region throughout the day.
The statement in full can be read here.