President Barack Obama has warned China about its aggressive land reclamation projects in the South China Sea. Speaking at the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Fellows Program, Obama said that Beijing should not try to expand its sovereignty by “throwing elbows” because it will be counterproductive.
Obama urges China to respect international laws
Obama said that China is big, and it will be successful. And maybe some of their claims in the South China Sea are legitimate. If Beijing’s claims are legitimate, people would recognize them. But China shouldn’t establish that by pushing people out of the way or by throwing elbows. He reiterated that the U.S. was willing to work with any country that wanted to establish and enforce rules “that can continue growth and prosperity in the region.”
He urged China to respect the international laws. Beijing is building artificial islands that include port facilities and military air strips in the Spratly Islands to assert its territorial claims. China claims almost entire South China Sea, through which over $5 trillion worth of goods are shipped every year. Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims. They have all accused China of expansionism.
Disputes must be resolved peacefully
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has condemned the island-building activities in the South China Sea. He pledged that the United States would continue to fly over the disputed islands because it considers the territory around the Spratly Islands as international waters. Last month, the U.S. sent a spy plane in the region to reinforce its commitment to freedom of navigation.
President Obama said the U.S. doesn’t have a claim to the disputed region and it is not a party in the dispute. But as a Pacific power, it should make sure that the disputes are resolved peacefully, diplomatically, and in accordance with international laws. China continues to reiterate that its island-building activities are “lawful, reasonable construction.” The U.S. is against “any further militarization” of the disputed territories.