China is undermining regional security and prosperity and challenging international rules and norms by engaging in coercive activities in the South China Sea, US Congressional leaders have said and asked the Trump administration to ensure freedom of navigation. The South China Sea is a vitally important waterway for global commerce and for regional security, with almost 30 per cent of the maritime trade of the world transiting the South China Sea annually. In a report, released jointly by the Senate and House armed services, the lawmakers noted that the consistent exercise of freedom of navigation operations and overflights by US naval and air forces throughout the world plays a critical role in safeguarding the freedom of the seas, supporting international law, and ensuring the continued safe passage and promotion of global commerce and trade. In the report, they asked that the US to continue to take steps to ensure freedom of navigation. China claims almost the entire strategic South China Sea.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims. The report released on Thursday said that China was undermining regional security and prosperity and challenging international rules and norms by engaging in coercive activities and attempting to limit lawful activities in the South China Sea. It noted that a tribunal determined that China had violated the Philippines sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by interfering with the Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, constructing artificial islands and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone. According to the report, the tribunal award stated that there was 'no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line'. The Congressional report said that the United States should play a vital role in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight for all countries by undertaking freedom of navigation operations on a regular and consistent basis, as well as maintaining persistent presence operations in the South China Sea.
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