U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is throwing his support behind President Donald Trump’s efforts to keep the Chinese from controlling the South China Sea.
Beijing has continually sought to extend its dominance over the region, including setting up an air defense zone in the sea and putting up several structures with war-making capabilities on an archipelago in the South China Sea.
China is asserting its claim over the Spratly Islands, a small chain of islands much closer to Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam than mainland China. The Chinese government has been building defense installations there despite opposition from Washington.
The U.S. has opposed China’s expansion efforts in the South China Sea since they began but now the Trump administration is calling China’s actions illegal as the White House is standing firm.
U.S. Sec. of State Mike Pompeo recently weighed in on China’s efforts.
“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said. “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”
Rubio, who sits on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is one of the leaders of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, is backing the administration and is pushing his own bill that tries to rein in China.
“Today’s announcement by the Trump administration makes clear that the United States will support our regional allies in defense of a free and open Indo-Pacific. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) cannot be allowed to illegally assert control over maritime territory in the region and the United States rightly rejected all of Beijing’s spurious claims. China’s unlawful actions will not be tolerated and I urge my colleagues in Congress to swiftly pass my bipartisan South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act to impose costs on Chinese individuals and entities for their flagrant violations of international law,” Rubio said.
Rubio’s bill adds sanctions on China and denies entry to the U.S. and visas to any Chinese national that works on the project. It also instructs the military to do nothing that would promote the Chinese claim to the disputed islands or allows China to further assert those claims. While Rubio has rounded up sponsors from both sides of the aisle, including Republican U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Mitt Romney of Utah and Rick Scott of Florida and Democrats U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Tim Kaine of Virginia, the bill has been bottled up in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the last 14 months.
Reach Mike Synan at firstname.lastname@example.org.