US warns Beijing against force at sea, again rejects claims on S. China Sea

WASHINGTON • The United States on Friday warned China against the use of force in disputed waters as it reaffirmed its view that Beijing's assertive campaign in the South China Sea is illegal.

The State Department voiced "concern" about new legislation enacted by China that authorises its coast guard to use weapons against foreign ships that Beijing considers to be unlawfully entering its waters.

The text "strongly implies this law can be used to intimidate the PRC's maritime neighbours", State Department spokesman Ned Price said, referring to the People's Republic of China.

"We remind the PRC and all whose forces operate in the South China Sea that responsible maritime forces act with professionalism and restraint in the exercise of their authorities," Mr Price told reporters.

"We are further concerned that China may invoke this new law to assert its unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea."

Mr Price said that President Joe Biden's administration was reaffirming a statement on the South China Sea issued in July by then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, known for his hawkish stance against Beijing.

Meanwhile, China may ban the export of rare earths refining technology to countries or companies it deems as a threat on state security concerns, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Chinese government is currently conducting a review of its rare-earths policy.

Officials view the technology needed to refine and purify the raw materials as a more powerful weapon in protecting state interests than the actual minerals, and it is looking at banning sales of the technology to some countries or companies, according to the person, who asked not to be identified as the information is not public.

While China has no plans to restrict shipments of rare earths to the US, it is keeping the plan in its back pocket should a trade war break out again, the person said.

China's Ministry of Commerce did not immediately respond to a fax seeking comment.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 21, 2021, with the headline 'US warns Beijing against force at sea, again rejects claims on S. China Sea'. Subscribe