Trump White House vows to stop China taking South China Sea islands

By David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick | WASHINGTON

The new U.S. administration of President Donald Trump vowed on Monday that the United States would prevent China from taking over territory in international waters in the South China Sea, something Chinese state media has warned would require Washington to “wage war.”

The comments at a briefing from White House spokesman Sean Spicer signaled a sharp departure from years of cautious U.S. handling of China’s assertive pursuit of territory claims in Asia, just days after Trump took office on Friday.

“The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there,” Spicer said when asked if Trump agreed with comments by his Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson, on Jan. 11 that China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea.

“It’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country,” he said.

Tillerson’s remarks at his Senate confirmation hearing prompted Chinese state media to say the United States would need to “wage war” to bar China’s access to the islands where it has built military-length air strips and installed weapons systems.

Tillerson, who was expected to be confirmed as secretary of State on Monday, was asked at the hearing whether he supported a more aggressive posture toward China and said: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

The former Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) chairman and chief executive did not elaborate on what might be done to deny China access to the islands.

But analysts said his comments, like those of Spicer, suggested the possibility of U.S. military action, or even a naval blockade, that would risk armed confrontation with China, an increasingly formidable nuclear-armed military power. It is also the world’s second-largest economy and the target of accusations by Trump that it is stealing American jobs.

Spicer declined to elaborate when asked how the United States could enforce such a move against China, except to say: “I think, as we develop further, we’ll have more information on it.”


Military experts said that while the U.S. Navy has extensive capabilities in Asia to stage blockading operations with ships, submarines and planes, any such move against China’s growing naval fleets would risk dangerous escalation.

Aides have said that Trump plans a major naval build-up in East Asia to counter China’s rise.

China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the White House remarks.

China’s Foreign Ministry said earlier this month it could not guess what Tillerson meant by his remarks, which came after Trump questioned Washington’s longstanding and highly sensitive “one-China” policy over Taiwan.

Washington-based South China Sea expert Mira Rapp-Hooper at the Center for a New American Security called the threats to bar China’s access in the South China Sea “incredible” and said it had no basis in international law.

“A blockade – which is what would be required to actually bar access – is an act of war,” she added.

“The Trump administration has begun to draw red lines in Asia that they will almost certainly not be able to uphold, but they may nonetheless be very destabilizing to the relationship with China, invite crises, and convince the rest of the world that the United States is an unreliable partner.”

Bonnie Glaser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank called Spicer’s remarks “worrisome” and said the new administration was “sending confusing and conflicting messages.”

Dean Cheng, a China expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Spicer’s remarks showed the South China Sea was an important issue for the Trump administration.

He said it was significant that neither Spicer nor Tillerson had been specific as to what actions would be taken and this left open the possibility that economic measures – instead of military steps – could be used against China and firms that carry out island building.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Source: Reuters “Trump White House vows to stop China taking South China Sea islands”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


8 Comments on “Trump White House vows to stop China taking South China Sea islands”

  1. Mad Max says:

    1. “The new U.S. administration of President Donald Trump vowed on Monday that the United States would prevent China from taking over territory in international waters in the South China Sea, something Chinese state media has warned would require Washington to “wage war.””

    Well, if such edicts are to take judicial effect, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Japan, the U.S. itself (!), and Holland (perhaps) in particular, may have to remove their man-made artifical islands or structures from the seas. Who is going to enforce that edict on the U.S.? Who is going to agree, and how is the Trump Administration going ask everybody to agree to it? By force?

    You can imagine the scenario.

    Perhaps the world should alo highlight Washington’s double standards and stop it expressly from grabbing territories in the Antartic and Artic along with Canada, Britain, Australia, etc.

    2. “(U.S. Military) Aides have said that Trump plans a major naval build-up in East Asia to counter China’s rise.

    So, he intends to start an arms race and turn South East Asia as well into a powder-keg. I said many years ago when the U.S. started to “pivot” to East Asia that such focus of attention invariably means death, destruction, conflicts, tensions, false flags, divisions, quarrels, and definitely no more peace and amity. This is wha Amerika stands for, wherever it goes.

    A fuse is being lit by the Trump Administraion now.

    3. So, three crisis created by Trump’s Administration within the first two days of ascending to the “throne” of the office of the U.S. president in the Black House : The abrogation of the “One China” contract, the declaration of the South China Sea as America’s “commons”, and the arms build up in South East Asia now.

    If that isn’t a readymade recipe for disaster in socio-economic-political and military disaster, I can’t imagine what is. This fella Mr Trump is man of action alright. he will blow us all to kingdom come before 2017 is ended.


  2. Steve says:

    This Trump and his henchmen cabinet, in principle, reminds me of Boy George, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Albright, Colin powell, Tony Blair before the genocidal invasion of Iraq. The huge difference is that China is not Iraq and the US cannot just park their naval warcraft inside China’s A2AD. Japan will vaporise should US park their military on Japanese soil and instigate war.


  3. Simon says:

    Empty rhetoric, that is all what Trump and his chronies is all about. If America can stop China they would have done so a long time ago. If they want to bar China access in the SCS they will have to bar other claimant countries too as a matter of principle and that would raise tension and war with all other countries. If it is only China then it will be an outright war. Trump does not have the moral support from Americans and its military is incapable of doing any such thing. Economically they are limited in what it can do. If putting “America First” is so important Trump should be thinking about pulling American military out of East Asia rather than spending money committing more arms there and provoking something that his country can ill afford.


  4. Wei says:

    A few mines could shut down traffic around these illegal islands. China needs to stop bragging about how no one can stop them.


    • tito says:

      if that’s really the case the building of those islands would’ve been stopped a long time ago …sorry curry boy you have too much wet dreams


    • johnleecan says:

      Wei are you so ignorant? Wei are you so stupid? Wei do you have a very low IQ? Wei are you still breastfeeding? Oh Wei a minute, that’s your father’s rooster you’re sucking. Sorry, I meant cock!


    • Steve says:

      Go sprinkle cow dung powder, it’s wonderful for your complexion.