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China has militarised several island chains and shoals in the region under Xi Jinping’s nine-dash line policy. Under the plan, China lays claims to several territories within the line although it runs from the mainland to within a few hundred kilometres of countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. Although the historical claims to the islands and territories has long been mentioned within China, current President Xi Jinping is attributed with changing the passivity of the policy.
In order to show its presence in the region, the US has continued freedom of navigation operations while three aircraft carriers were dispatched to the waters this month.
However, despite the show of force from the US, professor Steve Tsang from the School of Oriental and African Studies stated there was little Donald Trump could now do.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Tsang said the Obama administration had failed to address the creation of the militarised islands and now there was little that could be done.
He said: “This was really down to Obama rather than Trump because all this happened when he was President.
“When they began building the artificial islands, that was the point to stop them.
“But it wasn’t done.
“Once those islands have been turned into military bases, what are you going to do about them?
“So there’s not a huge amount the American can actually do about those military bases.
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“The building of the islands was very dubious and that was something that should have been referred to the UN from the very beginning.”
In 2013, the Philippines did bring a case against China at the UN Court of Arbitration over Beijing’s encroachment on the Scarborough Shoal.
The reef is located off the Philippine coast and under the ruling China was accused of violating the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.
Under the law, any territory within two miles is considered to be sovereign waters owned by the respective country.
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China was accused of violating the convention but refused the ruling outright.
With China’s influence growing in the region, the Philippines has looked to increase ties despite the shoal being claimed once again by Beijing.
The Spratly Islands have also been one of the highly disputed islands chains in the region and have been claimed by China, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The island chain has been one of the most successful areas of land reclamation by China.
In order to show the US’ presence, Wahsington sailed two warship in the area of the Spratly Islands.
Anthony Junco, a spokesman for the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, said in a statement: “On May 28 (local time), USS Mustin (DDG 89) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law.
“By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are beyond what China can lawfully claim as its territorial sea.”
This month the US Navy deployed the USS Russel to operate in the Taiwan Strait to yet again demonstrate the freedom of the waters.
In a tweet, they said: “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
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