U.S. rejects PRC claims in South China Sea

U.S. rejects PRC claims in South China Sea


The United States in early July 2020 rejected the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea.

The PRC has 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.

“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 U.S. has long opposed the PRC’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, sending warships there regularly to demonstrate freedom of navigation in the strategic waterway. (Pictured: The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz receives fuel from the Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe in the South China Sea on July 7, 2020.)

“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 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that invalidated most of the PRC’s claims for maritime rights in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian condemned the U.S. rejection of the PRC’s claim.

The PRC claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, parts of which also are claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

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

Analysts said it would be important to see if other countries adopted the U.S. stance and what, if anything, Washington might do to reinforce its position and prevent Beijing from creating “facts on the water” to buttress its claims.

“The Southeast Asian claimants, especially Vietnam, will feel more confident in asserting their jurisdictional rights under UNCLOS,” said Ian Storey, senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

The Philippines strongly supports a rules-based order in the South China Sea and urged the PRC to comply with the 4-year-old arbitration ruling, its defense minister, Delfin Lorenzana, said.

Taiwan welcomed the U.S. statement.

“Our country opposes any attempt by a claimant state to use intimidation, coercion or force to resolve disputes,” Taiwan foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters.