China's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that more than 40 countries have backed Beijing's position on an international court case over the disputed South China Sea. The case brought before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague by the Philippines contests the legality of Beijing's "nine-dash line" claim to most of the South China Sea. China has refused to participate in the case and has vowed to ignore the ruling, which may come later this month or in early June. Beijing has launched a charm offensive to shore up its position in the South China Sea ahead of the court's decision, which is widely expected to rule in favor of Manila. "Any country free of selfish political gains or prejudice would support China's just position on the South China Sea issue," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a news conference late Friday.
After attacking China repeatedly during his campaign, Trump has continued to disparage China on his Twitter account over its military buildup in disputed areas of the South China Sea, its alleged currency manipulation to put American companies at a disadvantage, and what he says are its inadequate efforts to curb North Korea's nuclear program. He has also announced that a new White House trade council will be led by economist Peter Navarro, a sharp critic of Chinese economic policy who wrote a book titled "Death By China."
China calls the drills part of a routine open-sea exercise, but they could add to tensions between Beijing and Taipei. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has refused to endorse Beijing's concept that Taiwan is a part of China. Beijing claims the self-governing island as its own territory and says failing to endorse the one-China principle would destabilize relations.