Trump Government to Stop China From Controlling Islands in the South China Sea
A US official under the administration of newly-installed President Donald Trump on Monday warned Beijing that Washington would be taking drastic measures to prevent China from occupying territories in international waters in the disputed South China Sea.
At a media briefing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Washington has to protect its vital interests in the strategic waterway. However, he failed to elaborate on how the Trump government would stop China from taking over islands in the disputed sea.
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Spicer's comments were a reiteration of Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson's suggestion during his confirmation hearing that the US must deny China access to the islands and reefs it has built in the South China Sea.
China has warned that the US would need to "wage war" to bar Beijing from accessing the islands and reefs in the disputed waters.
Beijing has been accused of militarizing the contested islands by deploying an anti-missile system and advanced military weaponry as well as building airstrips that can accommodate large military aircraft.
"The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there," Spicer said
Trump attacked China early on in his campaign, accusing Beijing of building a "military complex" in the South China Sea.
Spicer said that he agrees with Tillerson's suggestion to bar China from accessing the islands saying the U.S. has a duty to defend the rights of other countries to use the international waters freely.
"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," he said.
Defense and military analysts have said Tillerson and Spicer's statements suggest a call for U.S. military action which may include a naval blockade that could ignite a war between the two superpowers.
Spicer said the U.S. would come up with concrete ways to enforce its plan in the coming months when they have more information at their disposal.
Around $5 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes through the South China Sea yearly.
Aside from China, several countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines have overlapping claims to the region.