The South China Sea is a highly contested region where it faces rival ownership claims from China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. Beijing has asserted its dominance over the area.

Beijing has recently constructed several military bunkers on some of the atolls, sparking fears of a World War 3 outbreak.

Fears of a war between the US and China has recently been raised by the members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

ASEAN countries include Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei.

During a meeting with ASEAN leaders, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the nations to cut ties with Chinese companies associated with the construction of building islands in the disputed region.

Mr Pompeo said: “Don’t just speak up, but act.”

He urged the regional governments to “reconsider business dealings with the very state-owned companies that bully ASEAN coastal states in the South China Sea”.

The top US diplomat added: “Don’t let the Chinese Communist party walk over us and our people.”

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi has blamed the US for increasing tensions and said they were the “biggest driver” of militarisation.

READ MORE: South China Sea: China prepared to ‘use secret weapon’ 

Ms Retno added the escalating militarisation of the South China Sea was worrying but said it was the “political reality” they have to face.

Vietnam’s foreign minister Pham Binh Minh also echoed concerns about the region saying: “This has eroded trust and confidence, increased tension and undermined peace, security and rule of law in the region.”

In a joint statement with the other 10 ASEAN foreign ministers, they claimed the “good culture” must be nurtured.

The statement read: “[ASEAN has] a good culture, but we have to nurture it.

“We can’t take it for granted that these values will live forever.”

Despite having no claim to any part of the archipelago, the US has increased its military in the contested region, in retaliation to Beijing’s presence.

Earlier this year, Mr Pompeo sparked fears of a war in the region after urging nations to counter against China’s dominance.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Pompeo said: “The United States’ policy is crystal clear: the South China Sea is not China’s maritime empire.

“If Beijing violates international law and free nations do nothing, history shows the CCP will simply take more territory.

“China Sea disputes must be resolved through international law.”

source: express.co.uk

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