The neutrality of the South China Sea is vital to the global economy and to the interests of nations in the region. For eight years it’s been pretty much no-man’s land as there was no man in the White House to prevent China from taking disregarding the sovereignty of its neighbors and embark on their unprecedented island building program on reefs that belong to their neighbors.
On Friday, with the arrival of a real American President in the Oval Office, that all changed. President Trump pledged on Monday that the United States would not tolerate China’s aggressive actions, their stealing of territory in the international waters of the South China Sea.
Chinese media has previously thrown down the gauntlet to the US, daring Washington to interfere in their creation of military island bases upon reefs that belong to other nations in the region. They stated they would continue and stopping them would require the US to “wage war.”
White House Spokesperson Sean Spicer stated in a news briefing, “I think the U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a news briefing. He was asked if President Trump agreed with the statement in his confirmation testimony by Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson regarding the practice of China dredging other nations’ reefs into islands and then planting their own flag and creating an armed military installation.
Spicer said, “It’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”
Tillerson stated in his confirmation hearings his position on the island building and stealing program as, “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”
In June the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal ruled against China’s claims, stating that their “nine-dash line,” the supposed basis for their aggression, is invalid.
The Tribunal concluded there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line. Having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the Tribunal found that it could—without delimiting a boundary—declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.” They also stated in their conclusion that China has violated the sovereignty of the Philippines in regards to what has largely been a dispute over the Spratly Islands, located adjacent to the Philippines, roughly 165 miles away from Palawan and 1,000 miles from China.
Reuters reported that no immediate response was made by the Chinese embassy in Washington to a request for comment. They also cited aides to President Trump as affirming the administration’s commitment to a major naval build-up in East Asia as a counter measure to China’s rise and their rising aggression.