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South China Sea critical to US national security: White House


Washington: Situation in South China Sea is critical to the national security interest of the United States, the White House has said.

“The (US) President has often talked about how critically important the security situation is in the South China Sea. It’s critical to the national security of the United States,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference.

“It’s also critical to the global economy that the free flow of commerce in the South China Sea is something that needs to be maintained,” he said, adding that the US is committed to working with other countries in the region to protect it.

“Because it is a priority you can expect that the President has been briefed on the latest in this situation and will continue to be,” Earnest said in response to a question.

A State department official said the US is “carefully” monitoring China’s military developments.

“We continue to urge China to exhibit greater transparency with respect to its capabilities and to its intentions,” State department spokesperson Jeff Rathke said.

“So in conjunction with that, we encourage China to use its military capabilities in a manner that is conducive to maintaining peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region,” he said in response to a question.

The US appreciated Taiwan’s call on claimants to exercise restraint, to refrain from unilateral actions that could escalate tensions, and to respect international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.

“With regard to the maritime claims and the claims to sovereignty over land features in the South China Sea, our position is that maritime claims must accord with the Law of the Sea. We have a strong interest in peace and security and in the manner in which claimants address their disputes,” Rathke said.

China’s extensive land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea have contributed to rising tensions, he reiterated and said, “under international law it’s clear that land reclamation cannot change the maritime zones of a geographical feature.  That would include a territorial sea or an exclusive economic zone. So it’s only naturally formed land features that are entitled to maritime zones”.

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