What you need to know about tensions in the South China Sea – ABC News
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is to arrive in Beijing on Saturday, the last stop on his trip to Asia that has included meetings in Tokyo and Seoul.
The secretary of state’s visits with Chinese officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, may have any number of issues on the table, including economic cooperation and countering North Korean provocations. China has vocally criticized the U.S. deployment of the THAAD missile defense system to South Korea earlier this month.
But another topic that will be hard to avoid is heightened tensions in the South China Sea.
The disputed territory most recently drew attention when a Chinese ship seized a U.S. Navy underwater-research drone in the sea in December. The drone was completing a preprogrammed military oceanographic survey route when it was taken. At the time, the State Department said the drone was “absolutely operating inside international waters and it was absolutely performing necessary scientific research, certainly within the bounds of international law.”
China ultimately returned the drone, but the State Department made it very clear that its seizure was “not doing anything to de-escalate tensions” between China and the U.S.
This week, two U.S. senators, Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), proposed legislation that would “sanction Chinese individuals and entities that participate in Beijing’s illegitimate activities in the South China Sea and East China Sea,” according to a press release.
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