Friday, 13 January 2017

US ‘Should Block China From New Islands’


The US should block access to islands built by China in contested waters of the South China Sea.

Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state Rex Tillerson made the comments, which are likely to hike tensions with Beijing, at his confirmation hearing.

Beijing has been building artificial islands on reefs in waters also claimed by other nations.

Images published late last year show military defenses on some islands, a think-tank said.

Tillerson, appearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, likened China’s island-building to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

“We are 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.”

China’s island-building has caused dismay in the region. Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, but Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims.

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

The Obama administration has spoken out strongly against the island-building and has sought to build ties with, and among, the South East Asian nations whose claims overlap those of China.

It has also pledged to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and has sent navy ships to sail in contested areas.

But it has not threatened to block access to the islands, a step likely to enrage Beijing.

Tillerson did not explain how the US might block access to the islands.

But he said China’s actions in the South China Sea, and its declaration of a special air zone over East China Sea islands controlled by Japan that Beijing also claims, were ‘illegal’.

“They are taking territory or control or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China’s,” he said.



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