As Beijing has failed to put forth a lawful, coherent maritime claim in the South China Sea, the United States rejects any PRC claim to waters beyond a 12-nautical mile territorial sea derived from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands (without prejudice to other states’ sovereignty claims over such islands)

freedom of navigation

U.S. Interests in the South China Sea

The official maritime objectives of the Department of Defense are to safeguard freedom of navigation for maritime vessels as recognized by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, deter conflict and coercion, and promote states to pursue international law

The South China Sea is a region of tremendous economic and geostrategic importance. One-third of the world’s maritime shipping passes through it, carrying over US$3 trillion in trade each year. Huge oil and natural gas reserves are believed to lie beneath its seabed

Claimant states are interested in retaining or acquiring the rights to fishing stocks, the exploration and potential exploitation of crude oil and natural gas in the seabed of various parts of the South China Sea, and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.