Six different nations are claiming some or all of the South China Sea as their territorial water. These are the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and of course China.
These claims overlap all over the place, but the US State Department laid out America’s policy as pretty straightforward: the US has your back, so long as you’re anyone but China.
Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel says the US intends to support all of its allies in their territorial disputes with China, which mostly means the South China Sea but also covers the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by Japan and Taiwan as well as China.
Russel went on to insist the US will “stand by its commitments” militarily in the South China Sea, a reference to the Philippines claim that their defense treaty with the US would oblige the US to back them in a conflict with China over the region.
US officials claimed they are concerned that China is taking Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a precedent which would allow them to unilaterally move in and enforce their long-standing claims in the South China Sea.