US rejects Chinese claims in South China Sea, terms 'completely unlawful'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a press conference. (Source: @SecretaryPompeo)
The US rejected Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea and said "Chinese predatory world view" has no place in the 21st century, stepping up its clash with the communist nation.

"The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. 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," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a major policy announcement.

The United States, he said, stands with the international community in the defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and rejects any push to impose "might makes right" in the South China Sea or the wider region.

Pompeo said China cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim -- including any exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claims derived from Scarborough Reef and the Spratly Islands -- vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that a tribunal found to be in the Philippines' EEZ or on its continental shelf.

The US, he said, "rejects any Chinese claim to waters beyond a 12-nautical mile territorial sea derived from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands (without prejudice to other states' sovereignty claims over such islands)."

"Also, China has no lawful territorial or maritime claim to (or derived from) James Shoal, an entirely submerged feature only 50 nautical miles from Malaysia and some 1,000 nautical miles from China's coast," Pompeo said.

The two combat carriers along with four warships will include round-the-clock flights testing the striking ability of carrier-based aircraft. (US Navy)

"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," he said. The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire, a draft of the statement says.

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.

Although the US will continue to remain neutral in territorial disputes, the announcement will mean 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.

Chinese dredging vessels in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

There are clear cases where (China) is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim, the State Department said in a fact sheet prepared to accompany the statement.

The announcement is intended to be released a day after the fourth anniversary of a binding decision by an arbitration panel in favor of the Philippines that rejected China's maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighbouring reefs and shoals.


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