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US accuses Beijing of ‘illegally’ claiming part of the South Sea

The United States accuses Beijing of “illegally” claiming much of the South China Sea, rejecting the geographic and historical foundations of Chinese claims in the most detailed legal analysis to date.

Beijing, for its part, accused the United States of “political manipulation”.

The US State Department on Wednesday released a new edition of its series of studies entitled “Boundaries on the Seas,” which updates a 2014 legal analysis on the same topic.

At the time, US authorities were already questioning the legality of the delimitation of the “nine dotted lines” that appear on Chinese maps around almost the entire South China Sea, despite protests from Southeast Asian countries.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague pointed out in 2016 that China had no historic rights to the resources within the lines it defined, ruling in favor of the Philippines.

Relying in particular on that arbitration, US diplomacy wrote that Beijing “illegally claims sovereignty or a form of exclusive jurisdiction over large parts of the South China Sea.”

“These allegations seriously undermine the rule of law in the oceans and many universally recognized provisions of international law” contained in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the State Department added.

Beijing’s response was not long in coming.

“The US report distorts international law, misleads public opinion […] and upsets the regional situation,” Chinese diplomacy spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference today.

According to the Washington report, China’s invocation of “historical rights” to claim control of this sea is “illegal”, as are its claims over certain “islands” which, according to Washington, have no “geographic” basis in the case of submerged areas at high tide.

“The United States once again appeals to the People’s Republic of China to align its maritime claims with international law, respect the decision of the arbitral tribunal” and “cease illegal and coercive activities in the South China Sea”, said the Department of State in a statement.

In 2020, Mike Pompeo, then-Secretary of State to President Donald Trump, explicitly supported the claims of Southeast Asian countries over the South China Sea, going beyond the traditional US stance of criticizing the Chinese position without defending other states.

This sea is one of the main points of friction between Washington and Beijing, whose relations are also being affected by human rights issues, trade, or the statutes of Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Source: with agencies

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