WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday (Aug 26) announced sanctions and restrictions on 24 Chinese companies and associated officials for taking part in building artificial islands in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
The move was the latest step in Washington's efforts to pressure Beijing over its military buildup in areas of the South China Sea where sovereignty is contested by several countries.
The US Commerce Department said the companies "enabled China to construct and militarise disputed outposts in the South China Sea".
"Since 2013, the PRC (People's Republic of China) 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," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Companies blacklisted by the Commerce Department include Guangzhou Haige Communications Group, several firms that appear to be related to the China Communications Construction, as well as Beijing Huanjia Telecommunication, Changzhou Guoguang Data Communications, China Electronics Technology Group Corp and China Shipbuilding Group.
The 24 companies were placed on the Commerce Department's "entity list", which restricts sales of US goods shipped to them and some more limited items made abroad with US content or technology. Companies can apply for licences to make the sales, but they must overcome a high bar for approval.
Pompeo also said that individuals associated with the South China Sea operations will be unable to obtain visas to visit the United States.
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 Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources".
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