US, China Spar Over South China Sea Issue at UNSC Meeting Chaired by India

The United Nations Security Council meeting on maritime security was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

3 min read

The United States and China locked horns at a United Nations Security Council UNSC) meeting on maritime security chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, 9 August.

“In the South China Sea, we have seen dangerous encounters between vessels at sea and provocative actions to advance unlawful maritime claims,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in the meeting, alluding to China's claim over most part of the water body, news agency PTI reported.

Blinken's assertion was met with defiance from China's Deputy Permanent Representative Dai Bing, who said that the US was not qualified to make irresponsible comments about South China Sea.


What the US Said

Biden administration representative Antony Blinken, in Monday's UNSC meeting, addressed “some of the critical areas where we see maritime rules and principles under threat,” PTI reported.

“The United States has made clear its concerns regarding actions that intimidate and bully other states from lawfully accessing their maritime resources. And we and other countries including South China Sea claimants have protested such behavior and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was quoted as saying by PTI

“Conflict in the South China Sea or in any ocean would have serious global consequences for security and for commerce. What’s more, when a State faces no consequences for ignoring these rules, it fuels greater impunity and instability everywhere,” he added.

The US representative noted that maritime order that has an important role in nurturing economic activity, scientific innovation and security co-operation, is presently in a vulnerable state of "serious threat."

“That’s why I’m grateful for India’s leadership in bringing us together today and calling on all nations to recommit to defending and strengthening the maritime rules and principles that we forge together and committed to uphold,” Blinken stated, PTI reported.

China's Response

Chinese diplomat Dai Bing, who spoke last at the conference, opined that "the Security Council is not the right place to discuss the issue of the South China Sea. The US just mentioned the South China Sea issue and China firmly opposes this act,” PTI reported.

Bing asserted that through a collaborative effort between China and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the situation over the South China Sea is stable, with all countries permitted the freedom of navigation and flight over the sea as per international law.

“The US has been stirring up trouble out of nothing, arbitrarily sending advanced military vessels and aircraft into the South China Sea as provocations and publicly trying to drive a wedge into regional countries, especially countries concerned."
China's Deputy Permanent Representative Dai Bing, as quoted by PTI

The Chinese representative further asserted that the US's interference poses "the biggest threat" to the peace and stability of the South China Sea issue, and called the country's concern "politically motivated."

“This country itself has become the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea. The US itself does not join the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) but considers itself a judge of the Convention pointing fingers at other countries,” Bing said, PTI reported.


China and ASEAN are devoted to the implementing the declaration under the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and are working to reach the code of conduct in the South China Sea at the earliest, he further indicated.

What Was the Meeting About?

Chairing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Open Debate on ‘Enhancing Maritime Security: A Case for International Cooperation’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, 9 August, said that any hindrance to maritime trade can hurt the global economy.

Flagging the misuse of maritime routes for piracy and terrorism, Modi put forth five principles during his address, including the removal of barriers from legitimate maritime trade and the settlement of disputes peacefully and according to international law.

"A productive UNSC open debate on Maritime Security. UNSC chaired by an Indian PM for the first time. Two Presidents, one PM, and ten Minister joined PM @narendramodi on this important occasion (sic)," External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting.

PM Modi’s address came days after India took over the rotating presidency of UNSC from France on 1 August.

Following PM Modi's address, UNSC adopted the first-ever presidential statement on maritime security.

"The Security Council reaffirms that international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (UNCLOS), sets out the legal framework applicable to activities in the oceans, including countering illicit activities at sea."

(With inputs from PTI)

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