Will use 'all tools' to counter China's SCS claims: US
Terming China's claims over the South China Sea "illegal," the United States on Wednesday announced to support Southeast Asian countries that believe Beijing has violated their sovereignty in the territorially disputed waters. The statement comes from Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who said the US will use all tools available to back nations affected by China's assertion of control over the South China Sea.
Beijing can't treat SCS as its maritime empire: Pompeo
"The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire," Pompeo was quoted as saying by CNN. "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," he added. He also condemned China's "campaign of bullying to control" the territorially contested waters.
What exactly is the South China Sea issue?
The South China Sea issue involves the dispute over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, particularly along the Paracel and the Spratly island chains. China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea region, while Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei have counterclaims. The region is vital to global trade and is also rich in minerals, oils, and natural resources.
US to support nations in multilateral and legal forums
Pompeo also stressed that the US will support the countries affected by China's claims over the South China Sea in multilateral and legal forums. "We will go provide them the assistance we can, whether that's in multilateral bodies, whether that's in ASEAN (the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations), whether that's through legal responses, we will use all the tools we can," he said.
Will use all tools we have available: Pompeo
"We will then go use the tools that we have available and we will support countries all across the world who recognize that China has violated their legal territorial claims as well - or maritime claims as well," Pompeo was quoted as saying by Reuters.
In a first, US calls Beijing's SCS claims 'illegal'
"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. His statement comes amid worsening relations between Washington and Beijing. It's interesting to note that while the US has long rejected China's claims over the region, it has not labeled them "illegal" until now.
US is the troublemaker and destroyer of regional peace: Beijing
Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State's statement rejecting China's claims has attracted strong condemnation from Beijing. Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, stated, "It (Pompeo's statement) intentionally stirs up controversy over maritime sovereignty claims, destroys regional peace and stability, and is an irresponsible act." "The US is the troublemaker and destroyer of regional peace and stability," he added.
US deliberately distorts facts and international law: Chinese Embassy
Also, the Chinese Embassy in Washington had a strong response to Pompeo's comments. It tweeted a statement claiming the US State Department "deliberately distorts the facts and international law." It said the US "exaggerates the situation... and attempts to sow discord between China and other littoral countries." "The accusation is completely unjustified. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to it," the embassy added.
Here's what the Chinese Embassy posted on Twitter
The US @StateDept’s statement on #SouthChinaSea deliberately distorts the facts and international law including #UNCLOS, exaggerates the situation in the region attempts to sow discord btw #China and other littoral countries. We are firmly opposed to it. https://t.co/jDa3v1bX3I pic.twitter.com/VAr9dHqTRz— Chinese Embassy in US (@ChineseEmbinUS) July 13, 2020