US tells China to stop exploiting COVID-19 in expanding unlawful maritime claims

“We call on the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to remain focused on supporting international efforts to combat the global pandemic, and to stop exploiting the distraction or vulnerability of other states to expand its unlawful claims in the South China Sea,” US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

This is after a Chinese Coast Guard vessel sank a Vietnamese fishing boat in vicinity waters of Paracel Islands.

“This incident is the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea,” Ortagus said.

“Since the outbreak of the global pandemic, Beijing has also announced new “research stations” on military bases it built on Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef, and landed special military aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef,” the US State Department said.

“The PRC has also continued to deploy maritime militia around the Spratly Islands.  China’s Nine-Dashed Line was deemed an unlawful maritime claim by an arbitral tribunal convened under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention in July 2016, a position shared by the U.S. Government,” Ortagus added.