A resolution put forward by U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jim Webb (D-VA), the ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, unanimously passed the Senate last night deploring the use of force by China in the South China Sea. The resolution also calls for a peaceful, multilateral resolution to maritime territorial disputes in Southeast Asia.
On June 9, three Chinese maritime security vessels ran into and disabled the cables of a Vietnamese exploration ship, the Viking 2, in an area within 200 miles of Vietnam’s continental shelf and recognized under international law to be within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone. This followed similar incidents on May 26 near Vietnam and in March near the Philippines, as well as incidents at sea last year in the Senkaku Islands, which are under the legal administration of Japan.
Following international condemnation of the June 9 incident, China deployed its largest maritime security ship to the South China Sea. Several other countries in the region have also deployed military vessels to the area.
“Over the past twelve months, China has been carrying out calculated acts of naval harassment in the South China Sea,” Inhofe said. “Seeing this negative trend which threatens the freedom of navigation as well as the national security interests of the United States and its allies in the region, we introduced this Senate resolution. China needs a clear message that their continued harassment will no longer be tolerated. I am pleased that the U.S. Senate sent that clear message in a unified manner. It lets Communist China know they must halt their aggressive behavior and return to the pledge made in 2002 to resolve this dispute peacefully.”
“A growing number of nations around the South China Sea are now voicing serious concerns about China’s pattern of intimidation. These nations include Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as countries such as Singapore that do not have a stake in the territorial disputes,” said Webb. “This is a significant development toward fostering a multilateral approach to resolve these territorial disputes in a peaceful manner, respecting the sovereignty of all claimants.”
“The United States has a clear strategic interest in facilitating such a multilateral approach, ensuring open access to international waters and air space, and promoting adherence to international law,” said Webb.
The resolution passed by the Senate:
(1) reaffirms the strong support of the United States for the peaceful resolution of maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and pledges continued efforts to facilitate a multilateral, peaceful process to resolve these disputes;
(2) deplores the use of force by naval and maritime security vessels from China in the South China Sea;
(3) calls on all parties to the territorial dispute to refrain from threatening force or using force to assert territorial claims; and
(4) supports the continuation of operations by the United States Armed Forces in support of freedom of navigation rights in international waters and air space in the South China Sea.