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United States rejects China’s claims in South China Sea, escalating tensions

United States rejected China’s claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, drawing criticism from China which said the U.S. position raised tension in the region, highlighting an increasingly testy relationship.

China offered no coherent legal basis for its ambitions in the South China Sea and for years has been using intimidation against other Southeast Asian coastal states, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

“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,” Pompeo said.




The United States has for long opposed China’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, sending warships regularly through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation there. Monday’s comments reflect a harsher tone.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said.

The U.S. statement supports a ruling four years ago under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea that invalidated most of China’s claims for maritime rights in the South China Sea.



Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian condemned the U.S. rejection of China’s claim.

“It intentionally stirs up controversy over maritime sovereignty claims, destroys regional peace and stability and is an irresponsible act,” he said at a regular briefing.

“The U.S. has repeatedly sent large fleets of sophisticated military planes and ships to the South China Sea … The U.S. is the troublemaker and destroyer of regional peace and stability.”

China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it.

About $3 trillion worth of trade passes through the waterway each year. China has built bases atop atolls in the region but says its intentions are peaceful.