The US government announced yesterday visa restrictions will apply to people or businesses who are involved in “the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarisation of disputed outposts in the South China Sea.” In addition, the US Commerce Department added 24 branches of the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) to a list banning US firms from transacting with them.
It comes after China launched two missiles – one of which has been dubbed an “aircraft-carrier killer” – into the South China Sea yesterday.
That move followed accusations by China that the US had flown a U-2 spy plane into a no-fly zone over a Chinese live-fire drill the day before.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said this week: “The US is entirely and solely responsible for the current difficulties in China-US relations.”
Regarding the fresh sanctions and visa restrictions, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “Since 2013, the PRC has used its state-owned enterprises to dredge and reclaim more than 3,000 acres on disputed features in the South China Sea, destabilising the region, trampling on the sovereign rights of its neighbours, and causing untold environmental devastation.
“The PRC must not be allowed to use CCCC and other state-owned enterprises as weapons to impose an expansionist agenda.
“The United States will act until we see Beijing discontinue its coercive behaviour in the South China Sea, and we will continue to stand with allies and partners in resisting this destabilising activity.”
Mr Pompeo said anyone affected by the visa restrictions will not be able to enter the US, and the same will apply to their immediately family members.
A State Department official said recipients of the restrictions have been identified.
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The official said: “In other words, the party seeking to make that transfer of commodities, equipment, software, or technology to the parties on the entity list has to come into Commerce for a specific license, which then we review in consultation with the departments of State and Defence and sometimes Energy, and then issue a decision, either an approval or denial.”
In a teleconference regarding the move, a State Department official claimed firms within China’s CCCC group and the group itself have “engaged in corruption, predatory financing, environmental destruction, and other abuses in countries all around the world.”
The official cited examples including the CCCC being blacklisted by the World Bank in 2009 for “fraudulent bidding practices on a highway contract in the Philippines.”
They also said CCCC subsidiary China Harbor Engineering corp had been blacklisted in Bangladesh for allegedly bribing an official.
Last month, Mr Pompeo announced an “updated policy” in the South China Sea, calling claims by Beijing to offshore resources “across most of the South China Sea” as “completely unlawful”.
A State Department Official said the US had clarified its position in order to “strengthen our support for Southeast Asian coastal states in upholding their sovereign rights, and to reflect our deep concern over the increasingly brazen manner in which Beijing has deployed coercive tactics to inhibit other claimants’ access to offshore marine resources.”