Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple territorial disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons. The waters are a major shipping route for global commerce and are rich in fish and possible oil and gas reserves.


U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will visit Vietnam and then meet with his Chinese counterpart in Thailand during a trek through Asia this week aimed at illustrating how serious a threat Washington believes Beijing is.

FILE - In this June 12, 2019, file photo, Hong Kong actor and singer Jackie Chan shows photos during a promotional event announcing his new album "I AM ME" in Taipei, Taiwan. A visit by Chan to Vietnam has been cancelled following complaints over his alleged pro-China stance on South China Sea sovereignty issues. (AP PhotoChiang Ying-ying, File)

While Vietnam is a former U.S. enemy, the two countries have grown closer in recent years in the face of China's increasing assertiveness over its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea. Vietnam's territorial claims in the area overlap those of China and the two have come close to conflict in recent years as the competition for resources and national pride heats up.

Esper's meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe in Bangkok will mark the first face-to-face exchange between the two officials, although they spoke via video teleconference from the Pentagon on Nov. 5.


FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2019, file photo, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper talks to the media with Qatar Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Khalid Al Attiyah at the Pentagon in Washington. Esper will visit Vietnam and meet with his Chinese counterpart in Thailand during a trek through Asia aimed at illustrating seriousness of the perceived threat to U.S. interests from Beijing. (AP PhotoCliff Owen, File)

A visit by martial arts actor Jackie Chan to Vietnam has been cancelled following complaints over his pro-Beijing stance.

Chan had been due to travel to the country on behalf of children's charity Operation Smile, but the plan drew an angry response online.

Although Hong Kong-native Chan has not been outspoken on the South China Sea issue, he is an enthusiastic backer of China's ruling Communist Party and a member of the ceremonial national parliament's chief advisory body.


The U.S. and China traded barbs over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea at the annual summit of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Thailand.

Recently appointed national security adviser Robert O'Brien accused Beijing of using intimidation to try to stop ASEAN nations from exploiting their offshore resources, blocking access to $2.5 trillion in oil and gas reserves alone.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang responded by saying, "Some nonregional countries have done everything to make trouble and raise tensions. They want to impose their will on our countries."

The meeting took place Nov. 4.