Trump's Tillerson Tells China Island-Building "Illegal," and "your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed."

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01-12-2017

(Photo: SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 15, 2010) The guided-missile destroyers USS Sampson (DDG 102) and USS Pinkney (DDG 91) operate in the South China Sea. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is conducting operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Mercil/Released) 100215-N-8421M-071

Date 15 February 2010, 20:45

Source USS Sampson and USS Pinkney in South China Sea.

Author Official Navy Page from United States of America MC1 David Mercil/U.S. Navy )

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Trump's Tillerson Tells China Island-Building "Illegal," and "your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed."

Tillerson said he considered China’s South China Sea activity "extremely worrisome" and that it would be a threat to the "entire global economy" if Beijing were able to dictate access to the waterway, which is of strategic military importance and a major trade route.

He blamed the current situation on what he termed an inadequate U.S. response. "The failure of a response has allowed them just to keep pushing the envelop on this," Tillerson said.

"The way we’ve got to deal with this is we’ve got to show back up in the region with our traditional allies in Southeast Asia," he said.

Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration conducted periodic air and naval patrols to assert the right of free navigation in the South China Sea. These have angered Beijing, but seeking to blockade China's man-made islands would be a major step further and a step that Washington has never raised as an option.

Under his strategic "pivot" to Asia, Obama has increased the U.S. military presence in the region, and Trump has vowed a major naval buildup.

Tillerson's words also went beyond Trump's own tough rhetoric on China.

Obama has sought to forge a united front in Southeast Asia against China’s pursuit of its territorial claims, but some allies and partners who are rival claimants have been reluctant to challenge Beijing.

Tillerson called China's South China Sea island-building and declaration of an air defense zone in waters of the East China Sea it contests with Japan "illegal actions."

"They’re taking territory or control, or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China’s," he said.

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Tillerson also said the United States could not continue to accept "empty promises" China had made about putting pressure on North Korea over that country's nuclear and missile programs.

He said his approach to dealing with North Korea - which recently declared it is close to carrying out its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile - would be "a long-term plan" based on sanctions and their proper implementation.

Asked if Washington should consider imposing "secondary sanctions" on Chinese entities found to be violating existing sanctions on North Korea, Tillerson said: "If China is not going to comply with those U.N. sanctions, then it's appropriate ... for the United States to consider actions to compel them to comply."

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