Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China's claims were “completely unlawful” which diplomatic and political observers say may unwarrantedly spark off military confrontations with Beijing and sanctions against companies as Washington seeks to push back Chinese activity in the region. Pompeo had referred to China's year-long “campaign of bullying to control” offshore resources across much of the South China Sea was illegal—the strongest and most clear-cut and straightforward support by Washington of a ruling in 2016 by an international tribunal at The Hague. His call out, which coincided with China's offer to restart talks with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including some members with overlapping claims in the area, aligns US policy directly with the tribunal's ruling that China had violated international law with its actions. Four years ago, on July 12, 2016, an arbitral tribunal, constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, in which the People's Republic of China was a party, shot down Beijing's claims, including its nine-dash line. This undefined, vaguely located demarcation line indicates more than 80 percent of the waters in the South China Sea which China is claiming as part of its territory. China, which did not participate in the litigation, has refused the tribunal’s decision.