A globe shows the islands on the South China Sea with nine-dash line claims under Chinese territory. In a major policy reversal, the US on Monday rejected nearly all of China’s claims in the area [File Andy Wong/AP Photo]

The Trump administration escalated its actions against China on Monday by stepping squarely into one of the most sensitive regional issues dividing them and rejecting outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea.

The administration presented the decision as an attempt to curb China’s increasing assertiveness in the region with a commitment to recognising international law. But it will almost certainly have the more immediate effect of further infuriating the Chinese, who are already retaliating against numerous US sanctions

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