US Vice-President Kamala Harris will visit the Philippine Islands of Palawan in the South China Sea, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, in a move that may be interpreted by Beijing as a sharp rebuke.
The visit, scheduled for next Tuesday, will make Harris the highest-ranking American official to visit the island chain near the Spratly Islands. China has dredged the sea floor to build harbours and airstrips on the Spratlys, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Beijing claims some territories in the waters off Palawan and much of the South China Sea as part of China, citing domestic historical maps. A 2016 international arbitration ruling, however, said the Chinese claims had no legal basis, in a victory for Manila that has yet to be enforced.