US announces policy of all-out support for China’s rivals in territorial disputes

The United States says it will do everything it can to support China’s rivals in territorial disputes, setting a one-size-fits-all, openly hostile policy toward Beijing.

“We will support countries all across the world who recognize that China has violated their legal territorial claims as well — or maritime claims as well,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We will go provide them the assistance we can, whether that’s in multilateral bodies, whether that’s in ASEAN, whether that’s through legal responses, we will use all the tools we can,” he said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The ASEAN is comprised of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Some of those countries are involved in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Japan, another US ally, is locked in a row with China in the East China Sea.

In response to Pompeo’s remarks, Vietnam said it welcomed any view on the South China Sea that was in accordance with international law.

“Peace, stability, cooperation, and development in the South China Sea are the common aspirations and goals of countries in the region and the international community,” said Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang.

Pompeo’s remarks on Wednesday were the latest forceful statement by the US President Donald Trump administration to challenge China, which he has increasingly cast as an enemy ahead of presidential elections in the US in November.

On Monday, the United States said it would treat Beijing’s pursuit of resources in the South China Sea as “illegal.” The United States has also threatened to impose sanctions on China over accusations of the exploitation of offshore resources in the South China Sea.

China slammed the US’s earlier rejection of its territorial claims, calling on Washington to stop interfering in regional affairs.

Trillions of dollars’ worth of goods annually transit through the South China Sea.

The United States routinely sends warships and warplanes to the South China Sea to assert what it calls its “right” to “freedom of navigation,” ratcheting up tensions with China.

Relations between the United States and China have hit the lowest level in decades. The two are at loggerheads over a range of issues, including trade, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the coronavirus pandemic, besides the South China Sea.

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