GOP senators call on China to stop claims in disputed waters

GOP senators call on China to stop claims in disputed waters
© Greg Nash

Six Republican senators are calling on China to stop its reclamation efforts in the South China Sea after an international court ruled against Beijing’s claims in the waterway.

The senators introduced a resolution Tuesday that “calls on the government of the People’s Republic of China to cease all reclamation and militarization activities in the South China Sea and end provocative actions in the East China Sea, which undermine peace and stability in the region.”

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The resolution comes from Republican Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (Colo.), Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Lawsuits pose new challenge for TikTok TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week MORE (Ark.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? MORE (Ariz.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Tom Hanks weighs in on primary: 'Anybody can become president' GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling MORE (Fla.) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).

Earlier Tuesday, a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled against China in a suit brought by U.S. ally the Philippines, which argued that China violated its sovereign rights with excessive claims. 

China immediately rejected the ruling, which threatens to further inflame tensions in the region.

"The award is null and void and has no binding force," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

China claims about 90 percent of the sea, through which roughly $5 trillion in trade passes annually. In addition to the Philippines, there are rival claims from Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The senators’ resolution would specify that the Senate supports Tuesday’s ruling and “calls on all claimants to pursue peaceful resolution of outstanding maritime claims in the South China Sea consistent with international law.”

The Senate, it would also say, “opposes any actions in the South China Sea to change the status quo by coercion, force or the threat of use of force.”

It would also urge both China and the Philippines to implement an Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreement known as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and agree to a code of conduct in the sea.

Further, it would reaffirm mutual defense treaties between the United States and the Philippines and the United States and Japan.

Finally, it would urge the secretary of State to “communicate worldwide unwavering United States support for freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea” and urge the secretary of Defense to routinely conduct freedom of navigation operations in the region.

In a press release announcing the resolution, Gardner said Tuesday’s ruling confirms China’s actions are contrary to international law.

“China must abide by the decisions of the tribunal and cease all reclamation and militarization activities in the South China Sea that violate the sovereignty of its neighbors and undermine peace and stability in the region,” he said in a written statement. “I urge the administration to intensify the work with our allies toward a peaceful resolution of all outstanding claims and to routinely assert the international rights of freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.”