Biden administration denies most all China’s maritime claims in South China Sea, backs Trump policy

China rejects the ruling, announced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
(Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration is denying nearly all of China’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea, supporting the policy of the previous Trump administration.

The announcement was made Sunday by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who also warned China that any attack on the Philippines in the region would draw a U.S. response under a mutual defense treaty.

Blinken released the statement ahead of this week’s fifth anniversary of an international tribunal’s ruling in favor of the Philippines, against China’s maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighboring reefs and shoals, according to the Associated Press.

China rejects the ruling.

Ahead of the fourth anniversary of the ruling last year, the Trump administration, through then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, supported it and said it regarded as illegitimate essentially all Chinese maritime claims in the South China Sea outside the country's internationally recognized waters. 

"Nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea," Blinken said in a statement. "The People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway."

He also said the U.S. reaffirms its July 13, 2020, policy regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea and that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments.

Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty obligates both countries to come to each other’s aid in case of an attack.

Prior to Pompeo’s statement, U.S. policy had been to insist that maritime disputes between China and its smaller neighbors be resolved peacefully through U.N.-backed arbitration, the wire service also reports.