The United States rejects China’s “illegal” maritime claims in the South China Sea and stands with Southeast Asian countries facing “coercion” from Beijing, Secretary of State John Blinken said Tuesday (July 13, 2021) at a video conference with foreign ministers of ASEAN members. In Beijing, Chinese officials on Wednesday expressed concern over what they called “illegal” maritime claims in the South China Sea.
In Beijing, Chinese officials on Wednesday expressed strong opposition to what they called “the wrong position of the United States.
It was Blinken’s first meeting with the 10 ASEAN foreign ministers since he took office in January. Some diplomats and others worry that Washington is not paying enough attention to Southeast Asia, despite the region’s strategic importance to the United States in dealing with an increasingly powerful China.
In attending the U.S.-ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting, Blinken reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to ASEAN’s centrality and emphasized ASEAN’s critical role to the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region, a State Department press release said. The two sides also pledged to continue to build the U.S.-ASEAN strategic partnership, which is based on human rights and fundamental freedoms, economic prosperity and strong people-to-people exchanges.
Last Sunday, on the fifth anniversary of the international tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea, the Biden administration announced a continuation of the former Trump administration’s policy on sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, continuing to find China’s claims to most of the South China Sea to be completely illegitimate.
A year ago, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced for the first time that the United States considered Beijing’s offshore resource claims covering most of the South China Sea to be “completely illegitimate” and condemned Beijing’s use of “might makes right” intimidation tactics to undermine the sovereignty of Southeast Asian nations. He also condemned Beijing’s use of “might makes right” intimidation to undermine the sovereignty of Southeast Asian nations. He also said the United States stands with its Southeast Asian allies and partners to assert their sovereignty over offshore resources in accordance with their rights and obligations under international law.
Beijing reiterated last Friday that it does not accept, recognize or enforce the international ruling.
China has consistently said that “the United States is not a party to the South China Sea and related disputes, yet it has frequently intervened in the South China Sea issue,” and urged the United States to “stop being a disturber, spoiler and stirrer of regional peace and stability.”
Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin welcomed U.S. involvement in regional affairs at Wednesday’s U.S.-ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting, saying multilateral cooperation is the only way to ensure regional stability, peace, prosperity and security.