SINGAPORE: Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday that Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea have “no basis in international law”, taking aim at China’s growing assertiveness in the hotly contested waters.
Austin’s broadside came at the start of his first trip to Southeast Asia as US defence secretary, as he seeks to rally allies in the region as a bulwark to China.
President Joe Biden’s administration wants to reset relations with Asian countries and build alliances to face Beijing, after the turbulence and unpredictability of the Donald Trump era.
Speaking in Singapore, Austin criticised China’s actions in the disputed sea, where Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with several Southeast Asian states.
“Beijing’s claim to the vast majority of the South China Sea has no basis in international law,” he said in a speech hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.
“That assertion treads on the sovereignty of the states in the region,” he said, adding that the US would support countries in defending their rights.
Published in Dawn, July 28th , 2021