BOISE, Idaho – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, today released the following statements in response to reports of the Chinese Coast Guard sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands and the deployment of military aircraft in the South China Sea, among other things.
“The reports of a Chinese Coast Guard vessel sinking a Vietnamese fishing vessel and China’s other activities on illegally reclaimed features in the South China Sea are deeply concerning,” said Risch. “These are just the latest examples of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) blatant intimidation of its neighbors to assert its excessive maritime claims. The CCP is undermining regional stability at a time when the international community should be coming together to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States will work with our allies and partners in the region to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific and promote peaceful activity in the South China Sea.”
“At a time when the international community should be working together to face a common foe, China’s continued divisive and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea is deplorable. The first duty of any coast guard is to guarantee safety at sea – not to contribute to lawlessness and danger,” said Menendez. “The Chinese coast guard’s culpability in the collision and sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel is unambiguous, and constitutes unsafe and unacceptable maritime behavior, deserving of condemnation. All nations in the Indo-Pacific must be able to live free from coercion in a region governed by international law, norms and institutions. I strongly believe that the United States must stand up and support efforts by regional institutions and our allies and partners to ensure freedom of navigation and economic opportunity throughout the entire Indo-Pacific.”
“I condemn in the strongest terms China’s sinking of a Vietnamese vessel in the South China Sea,” said Gardner. “This is a flagrant violation of international law and comes at a time when nations around the world are focused on combating the COVID-19 scourge that spread in part due to the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up and negligence. I urge the Administration to use every policy tool at our disposal, such as those provided by my Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, to push against the CCP’s malign behavior and continue to vigorously re-assert the international rights of freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.”
“As authoritarians exploit the pandemic to erode rule of law, we must continue to call out Beijing’s efforts to assert unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea,” said Markey. “The United States will not turn a blind eye to military coercion of Southeast Asian countries. Like the rest of the world, the Indo-Pacific is focused on fighting the coronavirus, but the United States must continue to assist our regional partners and allies in defending their freedom of navigation, the free flow of commerce, and adherence to international agreements in the face of Chinese aggression during this pandemic.”