Biden admin upholds Trump rejection of Chinese government's maritime claims in South China Sea

Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a June joint press conference in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Clemens Bilan – Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration on Sunday reaffirmed a Trump-era policy rejecting the Chinese government's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Why it matters: Secretary of State Antony Blinken's firm statement comes ahead of this week's fifth anniversary of an international tribunal's ruling backing the Philippines' government against the Chinese Communist Party's maritime claims in the region.

  • China's government has ignored the ruling, and its "aggression" in the South China Sea is hurting the livelihoods of Filipinos who've fished in the region for years, the New York Times reports.

What they're saying: "Nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea," Blinken said. "The People's Republic of China (PRC) continues to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway."

  • "The United States reaffirms its July 13, 2020 policy regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea," he continued, referring to a statement issued by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"We also reaffirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments."

The big picture: Before the Trump administration's announcement last year, the U.S. position was to "insist that maritime disputes between China and its smaller neighbors be resolved peacefully through UN-backed arbitration," AP notes.

  • The Obama administration was heavily criticized for its light-handed approach in the South China Sea as China openly disregarded the status quo and flouted international law, per Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian.

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