US targets firms, people amid South China Sea dispute
WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday blacklisted 24 Chinese companies and targeted individuals it said were part of construction and military actions in the South China Sea, its first such sanctions move against Beijing over the disputed strategic waterway.
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post newspaper quoted a source close to the Chinese military as saying that China had launched missiles, including an "aircraft-carrier killer", into the South China Sea on Wednesday morning in a warning to the US.
China earlier complained the US had sent a U-2 reconnaissance plane into a no-fly zone over Chinese live-fire military drills on Tuesday.
The US Commerce Department said the two dozen companies played a "role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarise the artificial islands in the South China Sea".
Separately, the State Department said it would impose visa restrictions on Chinese individuals "responsible for, or complicit in", such action and those linked to China's "use of coercion against South-east Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources".
"This is the first time the US has levied any type of economic sanction against Chinese entities for behaviour in the South China Sea," said Mr Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at Washington's Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
"It probably doesn't make much impact on those entities directly... these certainly aren't the financial sanctions that some might have expected ...
"But it could be a start at trying to convince South-east Asian partners that the new policy is more than just rhetoric."
It was the latest US move to crack down on firms whose goods may support Chinese military activities and comes in the run up to the Nov 3 US election, in which both President Donald Trump and rival Joe Biden have been sharply critical of China.
The US accuses China of militarising the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbours. China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of an area through which about US$3 trillion (S$4.1 trillion) of trade passes each year. - REUTERS