While Rex Tillerson's confirmation hearing as Trump's Secretary of State was for the most part uneventful, several hours into his back and forth with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson compared China's actions to those of Russia in Crimea, saying a failure to respond had allowed it to "keep pushing the envelope" in the South China Sea. "We're going to have to send China a clear signal that first the island-building stops and second your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed" and that putting military assets on those islands was "akin to Russia's taking Crimea" from Ukraine.
With that statement, America's likely next secretary of state "has set a course for a potentially serious confrontation with Beijing" according to Reuters, which added that his comments are "expected to enrage Beijing."
Tillerson, the former Exxon chairman and CEO, did not elaborate on what might be done to deny China access to the islands it has built up from South China Sea reefs, equipped with military-length airstrips and fortified with weapons. Trump's transition team did not immediately respond to a request for specifics on how China might be blocked from the artificial islands.