In his first official press conference, White House press secretary Sean Spicer likely didn’t make any friends in Beijing, declaring that the United States would prevent China from taking over territory in the disputed international waters of the South China Sea.
“I think the US is going to make sure that we protect our interests there,” Spicer said in an unusually high-profile press briefing. “It’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”
While Donald Trump’s team often appears disjointed, they seem to be together on this point. During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, said that China should be denied access to the many artificial islands that is has constructed in the South China Sea.
“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,” the 64-year-old former Exxon CEO said when asked if he supported a more aggressive posture toward China, adding that China’s island-building was “akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea.”
Tillerson did not go on to inform the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee how exactly he proposed to keep China away from the artificial islands it has dredged up from the South China Sea. The only conceivable way to do so would seem to be militarily, in a full-scale war with China.
During the campaign season, Trump often pointed toward China’s island-building as evidence that the US was “losing” to China, a predicament which he vowed to reverse. Aides have said that Trump plans to initiate a major naval build-up in East Asia to counter China’s growing ambitions.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, reporters can’t help but compare Spicer’s first official presser, as well as his yelling session on Saturday, to those that they have witnessed in Beijing.
— Sophie Richardson (@SophieHRW) January 21, 2017
In Chinese Communist Party press conferences, sympathetic news organizations often ask the first questions–they're almost always gentle.
— Isaac Stone Fish (@isaacstonefish) January 23, 2017
Spicer: CIA loved Trump! (Reports unanimously show applause was from T staff). It’s akin to Mao aides telling him, Sir harvests are growing!
— Evan Osnos (@eosnos) January 23, 2017
"Thanks a million…No really…Whenever my spokespeople rail against the lies of the 'Western media', they'll know they have a friend." pic.twitter.com/r5QDCwvXOb
— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) January 22, 2017
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