The Trump administration has no illusions about the rising tension with China over its outsized territorial claims in Asia, but has nevertheless committed to ensuring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea for American ships and those of allied nations.
“China’s provocative militarization of the South China Sea is one area where China is contesting international law. They’re pushing around smaller states in ways that put strains on the global system, and their actions also undermine core principles of sovereignty, which are very dear to us,” said Brian Hook, a senior policy adviser to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
He noted further that the U.S. does not accept China’s unilateral claims to virtually all of the South China Sea, despite the fact that Beijing has built and fortified islands at various places in the region to bolster such claims.
Hook said the actions that the U.S. is taking, as the leading proponent of a rules-based system, is “to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight, to the freedoms of assembly and expression online.”
“These are all the things that we will enforce. And so we fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits. And so, that is what I would say just about the South China Sea aspect,” he said.
He also noted that China’s rise cannot come at the expense of the values-and-rules-based system, which is “the foundation of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, and it’s also around the world.”
“When China’s behavior is out of step with these values and these rules, we will stand up and defend the rule of law,” Hook said. [source]
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