US Vice President Kamala Harris Says Beijing continues to 'coerce' in South China Sea
|US Vice President Kamala Harris speaking in Singapore on August 24. Photo: AFP|
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday, 24 August, accused Beijing of continuing to "coerce" and "intimidate" in the South China Sea and pledged that Washington would pursue a free and open Indo Pacific.
Her comments came during a trip to Singapore and ahead of a visit to Vietnam, where U.S. officials aim to reaffirm Washington's commitment to the region and address concerns about China's claims to disputed parts of the South China Sea.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a sharp rebuke to China for its incursions in the South China Sea, warning its actions there amount to “coercion” and “intimidation” and affirming that the U.S. will support its allies in the region against Beijing’s advances.
“We know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea,” she said in a major foreign policy speech Tuesday in Singapore in which she laid out the Biden administration’s vision for the Indo-Pacific. “Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations.”
The speech sought to cement the U.S. commitment to supporting its allies in an area of growing importance to the Biden administration, which has made countering China’s influence globally a centerpiece of its foreign policy.
"These unlawful claims have been rejected by the 2016 arbitral tribunal decision, and Beijing's actions continue to undermine the rules based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations," she said, referring to an international tribunal's ruling over China's claims in The Hague, according to the Reuters.
China rejected the ruling and has stood by its claim to most of the waters within a so-called Nine Dash Line, which is also contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. China has established military outposts on artificial islands in the waters that contain gas fields and rich fishing.
The U.S. Navy, in a show of force against the Chinese territorial claims, regularly conducts so-called "freedom of navigation" operations in which their vessels pass close by some of the contested islands. China in turn objects to the U.S. missions, saying they do not help promote peace or stability.
The United States has put countering China at the heart of its national security policy for years and President Joe Biden's administration has called rivalry with Beijing "the biggest geopolitical test" of this century.
But a top Chinese diplomat last month accused Washington of creating an "imaginary enemy" to divert attention from domestic problems and suppress China.
Harris met on Monday with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Halimah Yacob during a trip aimed at bolstering ties with partners in the region as part of Washington's efforts to counter China's growing economic and security influence.
Harris told sailors aboard a U.S. combat ship at the Changi naval base in Singapore that “a big part of the history of the 21st century will be written about this very region” and that their work defending the region was pivotal.
“It is in our vital interest to stand united with our allies and our partners in Southeast Asia in defense of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she said.
|U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers a speech at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore before departing for Vietnam on the second leg of her Asia trip, Aug., 24, 2021.|
"Our partnerships in Singapore, in Southeast Asia and throughout the Indo Pacific are a top priority for the United States," Harris said on Tuesday, adding that the region "is critically important to our nation's security and prosperity".
She also said that the United States had put itself forward to host a meeting of the Asia-Pacific trade group APEC in 2023, which includes the United States, China and Japan.
Vice President Harris schedules to visit Vietnam on August 24.
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