US picks a fight with China in South China Sea

US picks a fight with China in South China Sea

  • US officially rejects China’s wide-reaching claims in the contested waterway in a move that promises to escalate tensions

MANILA – In a clear and well-orchestrated escalation, the US State Department has effectively rejected nearly all of China’s claims and activities in the South China Sea, a law-based provocation that threatens to spike tensions in the already hotly contested maritime area.

The statement comes soon after the US conducted its first dual aircraft carrier exercises in the South China Sea in six years, as the Pentagon ramps up its military presence to deter China’s rising assertiveness in the waters.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the “world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire” and that 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’s statement comes in the wider context of ramped up US pressure on China that has now extended well beyond the initial trade war and is now evolving into what some analysts see as a new Cold War. America’s unprecedented statement against China’s maritime moves marks a provocative new chapter in their South China Sea showdown.

The surprise announcement marks a new phase of the two superpowers’ maritime showdown and portends a possible more forceful Pentagon intervention if China moves in future on disputed land features in the sea claimed by Southeast Asian nations, including Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) ally the Philippines.