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Thursday, 13 August 2020 2.18 PM IST

USA amps up pitch, says will use all tools against China to support countries over territorial claims

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WASHINGTON: The United States will use all available tools to support countries that believe China has violated their sovereignty in the South China Sea, said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday. Pompeo’s statement amps up the pitch against China’s effort to push the envelope and its territory in the South China Sea region.

Pompeo said the US will support these countries but stressed this would be done in multilateral and legal forums.

“We will then go use the tools that we have available and we will support countries all across the world who recognize that China has violated their legal territorial claims as well – or maritime claims as well,” Pompeo told reporters, according to news agency Reuters.

“We will go provide them the assistance we can, whether that’s in multilateral bodies, whether that’s in ASEAN, whether that’s through legal responses, we will use all the tools we can,” he said, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Pompeo, who had last week spoken about building a coalition against China, indicated the plan was on track. He announced a “quick trip” to the United Kingdom and Denmark on Monday next. I’m sure that the Chinese Communist Party and its threat to free peoples around the world will be high on top of that agenda,” Pompeo told a news conference.

Pompeo also welcomed London’s ban on Chinese telecom giant Huawei and announced that the US would impose visa restrictions on some workers for Huawei Technologies Corp, continuing the Trump administration’s efforts to bar Huawei’s technology on the grounds that the Chinese technology company could be used by the government in Beijing as a back door for spying. Huawei has said it operates independently.

The Trump administration has already delivered a harsh warning to Beijing, insisting that Washington could respond with sanctions against Chinese officials and enterprises involved in coercion in the South China Sea.

“Nothing is off the table ... there is room for that. This is a language the Chinese understand - demonstrative and tangible action,” David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, had said earlier in the day.

Stilwell’s comment came a day after the United States rejected China’s claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea as “completely unlawful”.

The US has opposed China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea in the past and sent warships through the strategic waterway, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year, to demonstrate freedom of navigation.

China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of it. Beijing has built bases on atolls in the region.

China has described the US focus on the South China Sea and its threat of sanctions as an attempt to stir up trouble and destabilise the region.

“The US arbitrarily talks about sanctions ... this is very pathetic,” she told reporters during a daily briefing in Beijing. “We are not afraid of sanctions.”

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