US Vice President Kamala Harris has accused Beijing of coercion and intimidation in the South China Sea, adding that the US would “stand with our allies in the face of threats”.
The remark by the US Vice President was made during a speech made in Singapore on the first leg of a South East Asian tour.
Harris’ trip is seen as an attempt to reaffirm US commitment to the region, reports the BBC.
She also talked about the US pull-out from Afghanistan, where she insisted the the decision was “courageous and right”.
On China, Harris criticised its claims “to the vast majority of the South China Sea,” which she said were based on intimidation and coercion.
“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,” the BBC quoted her as saying.
Harris was referring to a landmark legal victory the Philippines won over China, concerning territorial incursions in the South China sea. Since 2012, and despite the tribunal ruling, there has been a constant Chinese Coastguard presence there- with Filipino fishermen reporting harassment by the authorities.
In recent years, China has been increasingly assertive over what it says are centuries-old rights to the contested region, and has been rapidly building up its military presence to back up those claims.