WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday targeted 24 Chinese companies and a number of individuals it said were part of ongoing construction and military actions over disputed islands in the South China Sea, the U.S. State and Commerce departments said.
The U.S. Commerce Department, in a statement, said the two dozen companies played a “role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarize the internationally condemned artificial islands in the South China Sea.”
The State Department, in a separate statement, said it would impose visa restrictions on Chinese individuals “responsible for, or complicit in,” such action in the South China Sea, and those linked to China’s “use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources.”
The move marked the Trump administration’s latest efforts to crack down on companies whose goods may support Chinese military activities.
The United States accuses China of militarizing the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbors who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves. The United States has conducted multiple freedom of navigation operations by sending its warships through the area to assert the freedom of access to international waterways.
China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year.