The former US national security adviser, John Bolton, praised in a tweet Washington's move to decline Beijing's maritime claims in the South China Sea, urging to "move beyond freedom of navigation exercises to oppose China’s coercive behavior in the region". The former Trump appointee stressed that "this is not a Chinese provence and will not be".
His comments come after US State Secretary Mike Pompeo slammed China's claims as "unlawful", even as the territory around the Spratly Islands group in the South China Sea remains contested territory by several other nations.
I'm happy to see the US has outright rejected all of China's territorial claims in the South China Sea. This is not a Chinese province & will not be. It's time to move beyond freedom of navigation exercises to oppose China’s coercive behavior in the region https://t.co/rsYua86lc3— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) July 13, 2020
Bolton's tweet called for "moving beyond" the so-called Freedom of Navigations Operations (FONOPs) - drills conducted in the region by the US that drew condemnation from Beijing, described by the administration of Chinese president Xi Jinping as "provocative".
The waters that Beijing considers to be Chinese are seen by the US as "areas that no country can lawfully claim".
Although portions of those the territories in the South China Sea are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan, Beijing is primarily in control, having rapidly constructed military outposts on several of the sensitive marine habitats and reefs in the region. Beijing's claims over of the area and military drills have received criticism from the United States. Beijing has consistently characterized the military outposts as defensive.
China has repeatedly denounced the US for expanding its military presence in the region, urging the Trump administration to leave the waters to prevent an escalation of tensions. A significant portion of the world's commercial shipping traffic transits the sensitive region.