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US criticizes China for provocations in South China Sea

US criticizes China for provocations in South China Sea US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink (photo: Getty Images)

The situation in the South China Sea is causing deep concern, and China's recent actions in the disputed waterway are highly destabilizing, states US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink.

The American diplomat made this statement at a briefing in Hanoi on June 22 against the backdrop of increasing tensions between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea.

"We think that China's actions, particularly its recent actions, around the Second Thomas Shoal, vis-à-vis the Philippines have been irresponsible, aggressive, dangerous, deeply destabilising," Kritenbrink said.

He also noted that the US will continue to support its Philippine allies and added that Washington has publicly and privately made it clear to Beijing that its commitments under the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines are ironclad.

"We think every country in the region, including China, needs to respect international law and needs to behave responsibly in the maritime domain," said the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs.

US relations with Vietnam

Responding to questions about his views on Vietnam's foreign policy and the recent visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the country, Kritenbrink noted that only Vietnam can decide how best to protect its sovereignty and advance its interests.

Vietnam and the US officially elevated their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership, the highest level of diplomatic relations, during President Joe Biden's visit to Hanoi in September 2023.

During the briefing, Kritenbrink called the elevation of the relationship historic and momentous and stated that he wants to maintain momentum to ensure that all agreements reached are implemented.

"We continue to believe that the US-Vietnam partnership has never been stronger," he said.

Kritenbrink arrived in Hanoi on an official visit on Friday, June 21, following a recent visit to the country by Vladimir Putin, who sharply criticized Washington.

Disputes over the South China Sea

China claims control over a larger portion of the South China Sea. Certain regions of the sea are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Trade in this sea annually brings in USD 3 trillion.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague stated that China's claims to these maritime territories have no legal basis, but Beijing rejected this decision.

In early June, the Philippines accused China of aggressively disrupting a mission to replenish supplies in the disputed South China Sea.

On Friday, June 21, Philippine officials stated that they are not considering invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US. However, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs refuted this statement by the Philippines. A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, June 20, stated that the necessary measures taken were lawful, professional, and flawless.

Increasing tension in the South China Sea

In recent months, tensions have escalated in the South China Sea between the militaries of China, the Philippines, and other countries in the region.

For example, on June 17, Chinese and Philippine ships collided in disputed waters of the South China Sea. After the incident, Beijing and Manila accused each other of provocations.

Later, the Philippines claimed that the Chinese coast guard had robbed and sunk Filipino boats in the South China Sea.

In May, China claimed to have driven an American destroyer away from its shores in the South China Sea, but the US Navy refuted this claim.