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US defense chief Esper urges ‘very public posture’ on Beijing’s South China Sea claims

US defense chief Esper urges ‘very public posture’ on Beijing’s South China Sea claims

The US defense chief on Tuesday urged governments “affected” by Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea “to take a very public posture” and assert their sovereign rights, AP reported.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper raised concerns over China’s actions in the disputed waters in a news conference after meeting his Philippines counterpart, Delfin Lorenzana, in Manila, his latest stop in his Asian tour. Acting collectively is the best way to send a message “to get China on the right path,” according to the US official.

In an Asian defense meeting that he attended in Thailand, Esper said most participants were “very concerned about China’s excessive claims” and its “lack of compliance” with international laws and norms. The meetings were led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Four members of the 10-nation bloc have been embroiled in the territorial rifts along with China and Taiwan.

In Bangkok, Esper met his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Wei Fenghe, on Monday. A spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry told reporters that the South China Sea disputes were among numerous issues discussed by the two officials.