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Blinken says U.S. will push back against Chinese aggression in South China Sea

Blinken says U.S. will push back against Chinese aggression in South China Sea
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to reporters on Tuesday during a news conference at the Fairmont Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo by Mast Irham/EPA-EFE

Dec. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit in Southeast Asia on Tuesday that the United States will push back against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, saying the communist country's behavior runs counter to international law.

Blinken made the statements in Jakarta, Indonesia, during a tour of Southeast Asia. He said China's threat to navigation in the South China Sea has the potential to affect the movement of $3 trillion in commerce annually.

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"When commerce can't traverse open seas, that means that farmers are blocked from shipping their produce; factories can't ship their microchips; hospitals are blocked from getting life-saving medicines," Blinken said in comments released by the State Department.

"Five years ago, an international tribunal delivered a unanimous and legally binding decision firmly rejecting unlawful, expansive South China Sea maritime claims as being inconsistent with international law. We and other countries, including South China Sea claimants, will continue to push back on such behavior."

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When talking to reporters at the Jakarta's Fairmont Hotel, he said the United States is working to help Indonesia get back on its feet in the COVID-19 era while developing a wider Indo-Pacific economic framework.

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"Together, our countries will collaborate to fight the climate crisis, to defend democracy, human rights, and the rules-based international order, including in the maritime domain, and to strengthen regional cooperation through institutions like [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations], which has its secretariat here in Jakarta," he said.

Blinken said the United States has so far donated more than 25 million vaccines to Indonesia, with the latest shipment arriving Tuesday. He said the United States has also given $77 million in pandemic relief assistance.

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