The White House warned Beijing on Monday about territorial conflicts in the South China Sea and on international trade.

The new White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, has assurances that Washington “will protect its interests” in “international” waters in the South China Sea, where Beijing is keeping under its control several disputed islands. 

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, but the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia have control over several islands in this vast area.

“If these islands really are in international waters and are not really part of China, we will do what it takes to defend the international interests in order to not be sabotaged by another country,” warned Sean Spicer during his first press briefing at the White House.

The South China Sea is a vital Asian trade line, through which goods worth 5 trillion pass annually. 

In its annual report to Congress on the activities of the Chinese military in 2015, the US Department of Defense estimated that the territorial claims of the Chinese led to the addition of over 1,300 hectares of land on seven artificial islands they occupied in the Spratly archipelago, within two years.

During the hearing two weeks ago before the US Senate for confirmation, the future Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said that the Chinese State should not be allowed access to the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Tillerson said before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the militarization of the islands across Southern China is similar to the “annexation of Crimea”.

“We have to send China a clear signal. First the island building stops and second, your acces to those islands will also not going to be allowed ” said Rex Tillerson. 

Former director of Exxon Mobil Corp warned that any attempt by Beijing to impose limits on international shipping lanes will be a threat to “the entire global economy.”

Beijing state media denounced the statement as an “absurd” idea  that could provoke a “military confrontation”.

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