Daily US Times: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said China’s pursuit of offshore resources in parts of the South China Sea is “completely unlawful”.
Mr Pompeo said he wanted to make clear that China’s “campaign of bullying to control” the disputed waters was wrong.
Beijing said that the US “deliberately distorts facts and international law”.
China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
For centuries, the countries have wrangled over territory in the South China Sea, but tension has steadily increased in recent years.
China claims an area known as the “nine-dash line”, which covers almost the entire sea, and has backed its claim with island-building and patrols, expanding its military presence there.
Although largely uninhabited, two island chains made by China in the area may have reserves of natural resources around them. The sea is also an important shipping route and has major fishing grounds.
Japan said in its annual defence review that China’s naval activities are a matter of grave concern. Japan also accused Beijing of attempting to alter the status quo in the East and South China Seas.
What did Mr Pompeo say about South China Sea?
Mr Pompeo denounced China’s claims on the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in a statement on Monday. He said Beijing had “no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region”.
He said the US, which has previously said it does not take sides in territorial disputes, rejected Beijing’s claims to waters off Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
He said: Any [People’s Republic of China] action to harass other states’ fishing or hydrocarbon development in these waters – or to carry out such activities unilaterally – is unlawful,”
“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Mr Pompeo added.
How did China respond?
In response of Pompeo’s comment, Chinese embassy in Washington DC posted a statement on Twitter, saying the US state department “deliberately distorts the facts and international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”.
The statement said said America “exaggerates the situation in the region and attempts to sow discord between China and other littoral countries.
The Chinese embassy in the US claimed that the ”accusation is completely unjustified. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to it.”