This week, from his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., focused on international issues this week, touching on China, the Middle East and Latin America.
Rubio teamed up with U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Mary., the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, in calling on more sanctions on Chinese leaders and companies that are growing active in disputed areas in the South China Sea (SCS) and East China Sea (ECS). China has been active with military construction in that area. Rubio sits on the Senate East Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee and chairs the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).
On Wednesday, Rubio and Cardin brought out the “South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act.” If adopted, the proposal would “impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct or facilitate a significant financial transaction for sanctioned individuals and entities if China takes certain actions in the SCS or ECS, including declaring an air defense identification zone or increasing activities at Scarborough Shoal" and limit foreign aid to countries that “recognize China’s sovereignty in the SCS or the ECS."
Rubio explained why the bill was needed.
“China’s illegitimate actions in the South China Sea threaten the region’s security and American commerce,” said Rubio. “These ongoing, flagrant violations of international norms cannot be allowed to go unchecked, and the sanctions called for in this legislation would put Beijing on notice that the United States means business and intends to hold violators accountable.”
“In recent years we have seen an increasingly provocative China in the maritime domains, coercing and intimidating neighbors in both the East China Sea and South China Sea, attempting to use the threat of military force to address territorial and regional disputes, and undertaking an aggressive island-building and militarization campaign which threatens regional stability,” said Cardin. “In the face of these actions the United States must be crystal-clear with regards to our long-standing national interests in the free-flow of commerce, freedom of navigation, and in the peaceful diplomatic resolution of disputes consistent with international law, and that we will safeguard our interests and those of our allies and partners and uphold a rules-based order for the Asia-Pacific region. This legislation provides significant new tools and options for our policy in the region and I’m pleased to join Senator Rubio in this effort.”
Rubio also marked the sixth anniversary of the start of the civil war in Syria, teaming with U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Democratic U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Chris Murphy of Connecticut to bring out a resolution condemning the Assad regime’s efforts and Iran and Russia for supporting that government.
“Iran and Russia continue to support Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad's murderous campaign against his own people,” said Rubio. “These regimes are guilty of war crimes, and it is important for the United States to demonstrate moral clarity and denounce these acts of evil that have destabilized the region, given terrorists a foothold, and created countless of orphans, widows, and refugees. Members of both parties must work together with the Trump administration to help end this bloody conflict.”
As the chairman of the Senate Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, Rubio met with Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solís and Foreign Affairs Minister Manuel González Sanz on Wednesday to touch on Latin American issues including continued problems in Venezuela, drugs and the Castro regime’s efforts in the region.
“The United States and Costa Rica have long been united by our shared democratic values, and it was my honor to welcome their president to Washington today,” said Rubio. “While Costa Rica’s neutrality in foreign affairs has made it an oasis of stability in the region, it has nonetheless been affected by illicit trafficking, violence and migratory crises that spill across its borders.
“Today I discussed the importance of Costa Rica’s support for the Alliance for Prosperity to combat corruption and drug trafficking in Central America’s Northern Triangle,” Rubio continued. “I also urged the Costa Rican government to work closely with U.S., international relief agencies and non-profits to ensure Cuban migrants stranded in their territory are treated humanely and given an opportunity to make their asylum claims, instead of indiscriminately being returned to the repressive Castro regime.
“As the situation in Venezuela keeps deteriorating, I stressed the importance of all democracies in the Western Hemisphere speaking with one voice in calling on the Organization of American States to invoke the democratic charter against the Maduro regime,” Rubio said in conclusion “I will continue pushing to make sure our allies and partners throughout the region understand the urgency of dealing with the political and humanitarian crisis Maduro has imposed on Venezuela, and I will continue to stand on the side of the Venezuelan people.”