Ely Ratner, former Deputy National Security Advisor to former US Vice President Joe Biden (Source: Ely Ratner's Twitter)

Ely Ratner, former Deputy National SecurityAdvisor to former Vice President Joe Biden, on July 29 (local time) posted onhis Twitter a letter of four US senators opposing China’s actions in the East Sea (internationallly known as the South China Sea) and urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ensure that China’s aggressive and expansionist behavior in the South China Sea is a top priority in his discussions at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok on August 2.

In their letter sent to Secretary of State Pompeo, senators BobMenendez, Ed Markey, Patrick Leahy, and Brian Schatz said: “China’s assertivebehavior in the Exclusive Economic Zones of other claimant states, its use of reclaimed and militarized artificial features as platforms for coercion, its decision to ignore the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling against itsterritorial claims, and its efforts to pressure ASEAN to negotiate arestrictive Code of Conduct all deserve greater U.S. attention, leadership, and cooperation with our allies and partners.”

“A South China Sea where international law is respected, freedom ofnavigation is ensured, commerce flows freely, multilateral regionalorganizations are central, and regional countries are not subject to coercionis crucial to American interests in the Indo-Pacific,” the letter wrote.

“While the Administration has rightly highlighted China’s militarizationof the South China Sea – and we welcome the regular and routine conduct ofFreedom of Navigation assertions – we are concerned that much more is needed tocounter China’s aggressive activities and impede its drive to operate with impunityin the South China Sea. This challenge requires a fully articulated andcomprehensive strategy and a regional consensus with allies and partners, withASEAN at the center of those efforts,” it said.

In their letter, the senators urged the US Secretary of State to ensurethat China’s aggressive and expansionist behavior in the South China Sea is atop priority in his discussions at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) Regional Forum in Bangkok on August 2, 2019.

“We therefore urge you to use the upcoming meeting in Bangkok as anopportunity to begin to forge a consensus to protect the rights of U.S. alliesand partners under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, endChinese infringement of the legitimate rights of other coastal states, buildrespect for international law and institutions, and counter China’s efforts toundermine a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

According to the senators, it is not too late to hold China to accountfor its behavior, and to deter further Chinese aggression in the maritimedomain.

“The Senate stands ready to support an enhanced effort to address thischallenge,” they said.-VNA