[Ed. – We’ve never accepted them, but up to now, our stance has been the less rigorous one that the disputed claims — all of which involve conflicting claims with other nations — are unlawful and must be settled peacefully. Now we’re taking an explicit (well-founded) stance that the claims are categorically illegitimate. As WSJ says, it’s largely symbolic. But it may mean we’ll be conducting more operations that invoke maritime law and challenge China’s claims.]
The U.S. declared its formal opposition to a swath of Chinese claims in the South China Sea, in an unusually direct challenge to Beijing’s efforts to assert control in the strategic waters.
Announcing the policy shift on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo characterized the decision as an effort to uphold international law against what he called a “might makes right” campaign by China to coerce and intimidate its Southeast Asian neighbors into ceding their interests.
While Washington has previously said it sees Beijing’s expansive sovereignty claims over most of the South China Sea as unlawful, the U.S. is now officially rejecting specific Chinese claims for the first time, according to diplomats familiar with the matter.