While the Hague Tribunal ruling against China on its territorial claims in the South China Sea was loudly endorsed by US officials, American diplomats are cautioning their allies in the region, including the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia, not to rush to try to press those claims overtly against China.
The Philippines was the one who won the Tribunal case, which ruled they had certain fishing and energy exploration rights China had contested. Vietnam was said to be interested in filing a quick case of their own against China to cash in on the previous ruling.
At the same time, China and Taiwan are both spurning the ruling, and China has vowed to defend its interests in the Sea. They accused the US of “stirring up trouble” in backing such efforts against them, and indeed the US has made a habit of backing everybody’s claims in the South China Sea so long as they intersect with China’s claims.
The State Department appears to believe that a quick push against China is more likely to lead to a military confrontation, and with the US confirming it is obliged by treaty to back the Philippines’ claims militarily, they clearly want to avoid that.
Rather, the idea seems to be that using the Tribunal as a jumping off point, the US intends to spend some time selling the ruling as the de jure reality before trying to make it a de facto one, in hopes that China will eventually be dissuaded from pushing the matter.
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