US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear the country’s position on China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea (SCS).

The US has rejected Beijing’s claim to waters beyond a 12nm territorial sea derived from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands.

It also declared that claims in the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank, Luconia Shoals, waters in Brunei’s EEZ, James Shoal, and Natuna Besar are unlawful.

Pompeo said in a statement: “The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“Today we are strengthening US policy in a vital, contentious part of that region, the South China Sea.

“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.”

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The US said that China has failed to provide ‘a lawful, coherent maritime claim’ in the SCS.

Last week, the US Navy’s aircraft carriers USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and their carrier strike groups conducted dual carrier operations in the SCS.

The operations demonstrated commitment to the US’ regional allies and towards free and open Indo-Pacific.

He added: “The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire.

“America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law.”