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Risch, Menendez, Gardner, Markey Statement on China’s Unlawful Activities in the South China Sea

Washington, DC -- U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), chairman and ranking member of the subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, made the following statements regarding China’s recent unlawful activities in the South China Sea as U.S. officials meet with ASEAN nations and other regional partners in Bangkok this week:
“Surveying operations by a state-owned Chinese vessel inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone – and the deployments 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,” said Risch. “Identifying concrete ways to push back on China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea should be at the top of the United States’ agenda during ASEAN meetings in Bangkok this week. In addition to U.S. leadership, it is crucial that our partners in the region, particularly ASEAN countries, stand together and stand firm against China’s coercion. Without a stronger rebuke of its behavior, 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.”
 “It is critical that China be held to account for its behavior in the South China Sea,” said Menendez. “We need a strategy that reflects America’s deep and enduring interests in working with allies and partners to help build a South China Sea where international law is respected, freedom of navigation is ensured, commerce flows freely, multilateral regional organizations are central, and regional countries are not subject to coercion.”
“China’s militarization of the South China Sea and hostile actions toward other claimant states are illegal, destabilizing, and contrary to international law,”  said Gardner. “I expect that Secretary Pompeo will use this opportunity to emphasize that the United States will always stand by our ASEAN partners, and also call for a coordinated policy response to Beijing’s belligerence with our allies in the region, as required by the Gardner-Markey Asia Reassurance Initiative Act.”   

“China’s actions in the South China Sea – one of the most important bodies of water on the planet – are deeply troubling,” said Markey. “I strongly support diplomatic efforts to maintain peace there, and support our Southeast Asian allies and partners in their efforts, including at this week’s ASEAN Regional Forum. 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. The United States 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.”