[U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying:] "... China's coercion in the South China Sea."
Two superpowers; multiple claims; one channel of water.
Welcome to the South China Sea, where the U.S. accuses China of building a "maritime empire".
The area is key to understanding regional relationships and tension between the world’s two largest economies.
[U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying:] "We have continued concern about China's activities and militarization in the South China Sea."
Let’s unpick the geography of the area, which spans over 2.5-million-square-miles.
Six of China’s neighbors contest parts of the waterway.
If China is holding the pen, it would mark nearly all of the territory with a vague, U-shaped “nine-dash line”.
As you can see - that spans about 90% of the sea.
It overlaps with numerous exclusive economic zones, or ‘EEZs’, of its neighbors.
When you add in other overlapping claims, it begins to get really messy.
China’s most vocal regional critics are the Philippines and Vietnam - backed up by Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
The Philippines brought a suit at The Hague, which ruled in 2016 that China has no “historic title” over the waters.
It also had sharp words for Beijing in early July when China held military drills nearby.
The Philippines Foreign Minister said the exercises would be met with the quote "severest response" if they trespassed into their territory.
And U.S. rhetoric has gotten more fiery on the issue as it butts heads with Beijing over issues from Hong Kong, to trade, to how China’s handled the global health crisis.
[U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying:] "We will then go use the tools that we have available."
July 13th marked the first time that the U.S. has called Beijing’s claims "unlawful."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of a "campaign of bullying."
"We will then go use the tools that we have available and we will support countries all across the world who recognize that China has violated their legal territorial claims as well - or maritime claims as well."
China commonly holds military drills in the area – while the U.S. regularly challenges China’s claims by sailing through the waterway.
Regional rivals have all accused each other of stoking tension.
China has built military bases and artificial islands atop coral reefs, but says its intentions are peaceful.
So why does everyone want a slice of the pie?
Energy is one big answer.
The South China Sea is potentially rich in oil and gas.
It’s also a strategic waterway, about $3 trillion of trade passes through each year.