Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, has set the stage for a potential clash with China, saying it should be barred from artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea.
Tillerson said China’s control and construction of artificial islands in waters claimed by neighbouring countries was “akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea”.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, building seven artificial islands on reefs and rocks and outfitting them with military-length airstrips and anti-aircraft guns.
“We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed,” Tillerson said during his confirmation hearing to become America’s top diplomat. “They are taking territory or control or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China’s.”