The US welcomes Asean leaders’ insistence that South China Sea (SCS) disputes be resolved in line with international law, including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea), and China cannot be allowed to treat the SCS as its maritime empire, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet on Sunday. “We will have more to say on this topic soon,” he said.
“The US and European nations have awakened to the reality of China’s role as a rising authoritarian regime, and the implications for our free society,” he said, adding that “China’s cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan, which has killed thousands, has accelerated our awakening.”
“The US and our European partners must work together to continue the Transatlantic awakening to the China challenge, in the interest of preserving our free societies, our prosperity, and our future,” he tweeted. His comments come as Vietnam and the Philippines on Saturday raised concerns over repeated violations of maritime rules at a summit of Southeast Asian leaders amid growing grievances with China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The meeting, held virtually and hosted by Vietnam, comes as the region reopens after lockdowns to check the spread of Covid-19 and negotiates travel lanes with other nations. While the 10-nation bloc known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has pledged cooperation to fight the virus, it is also grappling with Beijing’s assertions in the high seas.
“While the entire world is stretched thin in the fight against the pandemic, irresponsible acts and acts in violation of international law are still taking place, affecting the environment of security and stability in certain regions, including our region,” Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in his opening remarks in Hanoi without mentioning China directly.
(with inputs from agencies)