China has attempted to exert control and influence the South China Sea’s disputed waters for years. The US and other nations have previously accused Xi Jinping of “militarising” the region. Yet, China consistently denies the claims, repeating its assertion that the waters are, in fact, Beijing-owned.
Earlier today, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, issued China and its efforts to gain control a damning reality check.
He condemned the mainland’s “campaign of bullying to control” the waters that are potential energy-rich.
In an escalation of tensions, he said the campaign is “completely unlawful”.
China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the area in recent years.
It said the US “deliberately distorts facts and international law”.
The US has up until now opposed China’s actions but never formally called them illegal.
It is unclear whether the US’ comments will be followed by new sanctions on China.
As it stands, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam contest China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea.
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Many believe that the South China Sea is an issue too far gone to rectify.
Sean King, senior vice president at Park Strategies and business advisor to Asia, told Express.co.uk he believes that the region is “pretty much lost” to Beijing.
He said: “Beijing has 80 to 85 percent of it – possession in nine tenths of the law.
“What are we going to do at this point? Go to war with them over it? I don’t think so.
“We can continue to fly over it and sail through it, to practice our air and maritime rights, but I think it’s a little too late to do anything serious about it – and the other claimants have to get on the same page if they have any chance of countering this.
“It’s another reminder to double down and hold the line on what we can protect and that would be the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
“In 2014, Barack Obama became the first sitting president to say these islands, also claimed by Taipei, fall under Article 5 of the US Japan Defence Treaty.
“Attention now needs to be drawn to the Pacific – there, you see mainland China trying to make inroads and that’s why it’s very important that Mike Pompeo has been working with countries like the Marshall Islands and Palau and other smaller states in Oceania to ensure they do not break relations with Taipei in favour of Beijing, because that would give additional maritime purse to China.
“But in the South China Sea I think we’re going to have to learn to live with it how it is.”
The biggest driving force behind dominance of the South China Sea, many claim, is the potential of vast reserves of natural resources.
Added to this is the fact that the sea is also an international shipping route with major fishing grounds.
In its most recent annual defence review, Japan said China’s naval activities were a matter of grave concern, accusing Beijing of trying to alter the status quo in the East and South China Seas.