This week, the United States navy carried out what may be its first Freedom of Navigation Exercises (FONOPs) in the South China Sea since President Trump took office, just a few days after a close encounter between American and Chinese aircraft.
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With the United States embroiled in controversy, China continues to make moves on several fronts to broaden its influence in the South China Sea and in Asia more broadly.
This week, American officials sought to allay concerns that Washington is failing to address China’s activities in the South China Sea, which have showed no signs of slowing.
The annual ASEAN Summit wrapped up in Manila on Saturday, and the official closing statement notably failed to mention the UNCLOS arbitration ruling last year or China’s ongoing land reclamation and militarization activities in the South China Sea.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces General Eduardo Año made an unexpected visit last Friday to the disputed South China Sea island of Pag-Asa, also known as Thitu.
Vice President Mike Pence began a ten-day Asia-Pacific tour this week, with stops in South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Australia.
Last Friday, as Congress and the international community reacted to U.S. airstrikes in Syria, President Donald Trump completed his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
This week, President Xi Jinping of China and President Donald Trump met for the first time.
Amid reports that construction on key Chinese-held reefs and islands is nearing completion, Chinese officials stated that the installations were for primarily civilian purposes, and suggested that coastal Asian nations should cooperate to realize their mutual interests.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continued his tour of Asia over the weekend, visiting South Korea on Friday (though notably not dining with his hosts) and finishing up in Beijing on Saturday and Sunday.