Republican Senator Jim Risch, Chairman of the committee, said: “Surveying operations by a state-owned Chinese vessel inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone – and the deployment of China’s Coast Guard ships – are only the latest evidence of China’s willingness to use coercion to assert unlawful claims in the South China Sea.”

“Identifying concrete ways to push back on China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea should be at the top of the US’ agenda during ASEAN meetings in Bangkok this week.”

Republican Senator Jim Risch, Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (Source: tuoitre.vn)

It is crucial that the US’ partners in the region, particularly ASEAN countries, stand together and stand firm against China’s coercion, he said, adding that: “Without a stronger rebuke of its behaviour, China will continue to act with impunity in the South China Sea, to the detriment of our shared interests in advancing a truly free and open Indo-Pacific and upholding the rule of law.”

According to Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it is critical that China be held to account for its behaviour in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Cory Gardner, Chairman of the subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, noted: “China’s militarisation of the South China Sea and hostile actions toward other claimant states are illegal, destabilising, and contrary to international law.”

He said he expects that State Secretary Mike Pompeo will use this opportunity to emphasise that the US will always stand by its ASEAN partners, and also call for a coordinated policy response to Beijing’s belligerence with the US’ allies in the region, as required by the Gardner-Markey Asia Reassurance Initiative Act.

For his part, Democratic Senator Edward Markey, Ranking Member of the subcommittee, stated: “China’s actions in the South China Sea – one of the most important bodies of water on the planet – are deeply troubling.”

Markey voiced his support for diplomatic efforts to maintain peace in the South China Sea, and for the US’ Southeast Asian allies and partners in their efforts, including at this week’s ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration made it clear years ago that China’s artificial island building violated international law, and all must respect freedom of navigation, he noted, adding that: “The US should ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, but until we do, we will act in accordance with it, and expect all other countries to do so as well”./.

CPV/VNA