On Monday, more Sino-U.S. relations rhetoric hit the news cycle, but much of it is the same that we’ve heard before. At the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed China over its recent actions in the South China Sea, while U.S. Trade Secretary Jack Lew urged China to stop dumping foreign markets with excess steel.
“The United States will make it clear that we are looking for a peaceful resolution to … the disputes of the South China Sea,” Kerry said in opening remarks. “Let’s not resolve this by unilateral action; let’s resolve this through rule of law, through diplomacy, through negotiation. And we urge all nations to find a diplomatic solution, rooted in international standards and rule of law,” he said.
Kerry’s remarks come as tensions in the South China Sea continue to escalate amid Beijing’s land reclamation activities and artificial island building on disputed reefs, islets, shoals and structures in the troubled body of water. China, which claims more than 80% of the South China Sea, based in large part on historical ownership, plays its hand cleverly against a national sovereignty narrative that appeals to growing Chinese nationalism.
Vietnam, however, recently discovered maps cast even more doubt over Beijing’s South China Sea claims. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims in the Sea, which encompasses vital global shipping routes and is believed to have significant oil and gas deposits. More than $5 trillion in trade (including vital oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) passes through the South China Sea each year.