US-China tensions heat up in South China Sea, explained.
Tensions are boiling over the South China Sea.
The South China Sea is part of the Pacific Ocean and is bordered by places like China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan. The area’s rich in oil and is a major global shipping route (think: more than 30% of the world’s oil trade in 2016). A UN convention gives neighboring countries and territories the right to use the South China Sea. But in recent years, China’s refused to accept a 2016 ruling by an international court that rejected its claims to certain waters and has continued to claim 90% of the water as its own. Now, the US is getting involved.
Yesterday, it backed the 2016 ruling and rejected nearly all of Beijing’s claims in the highly contested waterway. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China was “bullying” its neighbors to try to control offshore resources and that the US supports its Southeast Asian allies. In the past, the US has sent warships to show that there are freedoms to navigate the area. But it has left maritime disputes in the area to be resolved peacefully through UN-backed negotiations.
WHY THE CHANGE?
The US has long opposed China’s territorial claims in the area. China has created artificial islands – which some have said are used as military outposts – and held military drills in the water. But as the world’s attention has turned to COVID-19, US officials say China may be taking advantage of the circumstances to pursue more aggressive action. And while it’s not clear what impact the US’s announcement could have, it’s the first time the country has officially rejected China’s overreach in the South China Sea. Some experts said it was a move to hold Beijing accountable, but it could escalate already heightened tensions. A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy accused the US of trying to “sabotage regional peace.”
U.S vs CHINA.
In recent weeks, the US and China have been at odds over Beijing’s handling of COVID-19, its national security law in Hong Kong, and its mass detention of Uighur Muslims. So while the US’s latest shift is largely seen as a symbolic move, it could increase the pressure in a relationship that’s already gotten pretty tense. .
US-China tensions heat up in South China Sea, explained