The United States has no territorial claim to the South China Sea. But it is shaping up as one of the most celebrated or reviled players – depending who you talk to — in a half century-old dispute over rights to the 3.5 million-square-kilometer ocean.Washington agreed to resume sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam last month after a ban of some 30 years and since 2014 it has helped the Philippines shore up its military preparedness. Both Southeast Asian countries are chafing with China over access to the sea. America is naturally reviled by China, a rival world superpower that is building up military positions and staking economic claims at sea despite protests from six other governments that say the waters are at least partly theirs.
“The Chinese have concerns about (Clinton’s) attitude toward them,” says Alan Romberg, director of the East Asia program at The Stimson Center, a U.S. think tank. “That said, they know she is highly experienced and will be much more predictable than Donald Trump. In that sense, they would be relieved to see her win.”
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