If Beijing can claim South China Sea, US can call Pacific ‘American Sea’, says Clinton in leaked speech

US presidential candidate says in WikiLeaks excerpts that Chinese have a right to assert themselves but Washington needs to push back

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 October, 2016, 2:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 October, 2016, 11:16pm

US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said the US could claim the Pacific Ocean as an “American Sea” if China claims all of the South China Sea, according to excerpts of her speech contained in hacked emails revealed by WikiLeaks.

In a speech the Democratic candidate gave to bankers from Goldman Sachs in October 2013, she said the Chinese “have a right to assert themselves” in the South China Sea but the US needed to “push back” to keep Beijing from getting a “chokehold over world trade”.

“You can’t hold that against them. They have the right to assert themselves,” Clinton said in the speech.

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“But if nobody’s there to push back to create a balance, then they’re going to have a chokehold on the sea lanes and also on the countries that border the South China Sea.”

In the speech given eight months after her resignation as US secretary of state, Clinton reportedly told the audience that China “basically wants to control” all of the South China Sea, which includes the world’s busiest trade routes.

She said that “48 per cent of the world’s trade, obviously that includes energy but includes everything else, goes through the South China Sea”.

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China has drawn a “nine-dash line” to demarcate its maritime claims, which encircle almost all of the South China Sea. These claims are contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. Indonesia says it has no territorial dispute with China, but the two countries have overlapping maritime claims.

In 2010, then secretary of state Clinton first brought up the issue of “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Vietnam. This marked the beginning of the US ”pivot to Asia” strategy and of increased military tension between the US and China in the region.

In the paid speech to Goldman Sachs, Clinton said she confronted Chinese officials about the South China Sea during her tenure as secretary.

“I said, by that argument, you know, the United States should claim all of the Pacific. We liberated it; we defended it. We have as much claim to all of the Pacific. And we could call it the American Sea, and it could go from the West Coast of California all the way to the Philippines.”

She said in the speech that she had told her Beijing counterparts the Chinese claims to the South China Sea were based on “pottery shards” from “some fishing vessel that ran aground in an atoll somewhere”, whereas the US claim to the Pacific would be based on “convoys of military strength” in the second world war and the claim Americans “discovered Japan”.

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She described this line of reasoning as “one of the greatest arguments that I had”.

Clinton said that as the debate became “more technical”, the Chinese said they would claim Hawaii, and that she had countered by saying the US had proof of purchase.

The file was part of thousands of hacked emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, which were released by WikiLeaks last week.

In one email to Podesta, Clinton’s research director Tony Carrk said the leaked speech excerpts contained “a lot of policy positions that we should give an extra scrub”.

The Clinton campaign has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the documents, according to CNN.