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Trump administration vows to defend South China Sea

White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. AP/Susan Walsh

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is vowing to defend territories that are in international waters, including those in the South China Sea.

Responding to a question about China's claims over islands in the disputed area, press secretary Sean Spicer says that "we are going to make sure we defend international territories."

China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.

Trump ruffled feathers with China early after his Election Day victory, calling the leader of Taiwan and breaking the longstanding tradition of maintaining unofficial ties with the self-governing island.

RELATED: Trump's bet for state secretary wants aggressive stance in South China Sea | Trump State pick irks Beijing, muddles policy on South China Sea 

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