https://i2.wp.com/cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/78/590x/SOUTH-CHINA-SEA-DISPUTE-812682.jpgSouth China Sea row at boiling point: US warns Beijing over ‘unacceptable’ military action

Speaking at a security conference in Singapore, Defence Secretary James Mattis said such moves undermined regional stability and would not be tolerated.

China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea – through which about £3.9trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year – are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In his speech at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue forum, General Mattis said: “We oppose countries militarising artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims.

“We cannot and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo.”

The row over the South China Sea has escalatedGETTY

The South China Sea row has reached boiling point

President Donald Trump and other senior US officials have repeatedly stated that they would protect its interests in the South China Sea – a key shipping route.

During his nomination hearing earlier this year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that the US was “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 response, the Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing would “remain firm to defend its rights in the region”.

Itu Aba Island in the South China SeaGETTY

Itu Aba Island in the South China Sea

Rival countries have wrangled over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but tension in the region has steadily increased over recent years.

Its islets and waters are claimed in part or in whole by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

As well as this, Beijing has been building artificial islands on reefs and carrying out naval patrols in waters also claimed by these other nations.

Although the previous US administration of Barack Obama insisted it was neutral territory, it spoke out strongly against the island-building and sought to build ties with, and among, the South East Asian nations whose claims overlap those of China.

Woody Island in the South China SeaGETTY

Woody Island is the largest of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea

In July 2016, an international tribunal ruled against Chinese claims, backing a case brought by the Philippines – however, Beijing said it would not respect the verdict.

Beijing says its right to the area goes back centuries to when the Paracel and Spratly island chains were regarded as integral parts of the Chinese nation, and in 1947 it issued a map detailing its claims, showing the two island groups falling entirely within its territory.

However, critics say China has not clarified its claims sufficiently – adding that the nine-dash line that appears on Chinese maps encompassing almost the entirety of the South China Sea includes no coordinates.

It is also not clear whether China claims only land territory within the nine-dash line, or all the territorial waters within the line as well.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s