- The United States is on the same front as its allies and partners in Southeast Asia.
- The Chinese government put forward the territorial claim of the "nine-segment line," and reclaimed land.
- During the Obama administration, the United States did not hold a position on the ownership and resource control of the disputed islands.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea were “completely unlawful,” and that China was attempting to control the area by “bullying.” This is the first time the US government has stated its position on the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as its campaign of bullying to control them,” Pompeo said in a statement on Monday. “The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire.”
The United States is on the same front as its allies and partners in Southeast Asia. The South China Sea dispute revolves around the sovereignty of multiple islands, reefs, and sandbars in the region. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Brunei have all made sovereignty claims.
Because of its strategic position, the United States also regards the South China Sea as an important sea area, and has allied relations with multiple claimant countries. Disputes over sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea have continued for decades, and tensions have escalated in recent years. Pompeo added:
“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 defence 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.”
The Chinese government put forward the territorial claim of the “nine-segment line,” and reclaimed land, built military bases, and set up administrative regions in areas with territorial disputes. This triggered protests from various countries around the region.
The sea is considered to be a high-risk area where China, the United States, and other Southeast Asian countries may be able to shoot off the fire and break out military conflicts.
On July 12, 2016, the International Arbitration Court in The Hague, the Netherlands completely denied China’s right to claim the South China Sea and islands and reefs within the “Nine Section Line.”
However, China condemned the result of the arbitration as “illegal and invalid,” and did not recognize it. Four years after the outcome of the international arbitration of the South China Sea dispute, the United States broke its consistent policy of not taking a stand for the first time.
During the Obama administration, the United States did not hold a position on the ownership and resource control of the disputed islands, but emphasized that China needs to ensure freedom of international navigation, and countries have reached sovereign resolutions through multilateral negotiations.
Today, Pompeo said that China’s imposed unilateral actions in the region have no “legal basis,” and that the benefits shared by the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia are subject to “unprecedented threats” from China.