State Department official says any ruling by the court in The Hague must be considered binding
The United States has warned China against taking “additional provocative actions” following an impending international court ruling on the South China Sea that is expected to largely reject Beijing’s broad territorial claims.
A senior State Department official voiced scepticism at China’s claim that dozens of countries backed its position in a case the Philippines has brought against Beijing and vowed that Washington would uphold US defence commitments.
Colin Willett, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said Washington had “a lot of options” to respond to any such Chinese moves in a region she said was vital to US interests. She also made clear that with a ruling expected possibly within weeks, the United States was working to rally sometimes wavering allies and partners in the region to ensure a unified front.
‘Are you with us?’: Philippines’ Duterte seeks US assurance in South China Sea feud with Beijing
How Washington handles the aftermath of the ruling is widely seen as a test of US credibility in a region where it has been the dominant security presence since the second world war but is now struggling to contain an increasingly assertive China.
“We, the United States, do have very clear national interests in the area,” Willett said.
“We have an interest in upholding our defence commitments and our security partnerships.”
The Philippines is contesting China’s claim to an area shown on its maps as a nine-dash line stretching deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia, covering hundreds of disputed islands and reefs and encompassing a vital global trade route.