For the first time, the United States imposed sanctions on 24 Chinese companies and several individuals for participating in the construction and militarization of contested artificial islands in the South China Sea. Highly noteworthy was the fact that this move was apparently the result of concerted actions by the US Departments of Commerce and State.
|China has not stopped land reclaimation in the South China Sea|
The US Commerce Department blamed these Chinese companies of playing a “role in helping the Chinese military” with the construction project. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was placing visa restrictions on individuals “responsible” or “complicit” in the project. A move could not be more concrete and tougher.
Since 2013, the 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, destabilizing the region, trampling on the sovereign rights of its neighbors, and causing incalculable environmental devastation.
The actions are the latest steps the US has taken against China for its artificial island building and military buildup in the South China Sea. The Chinese companies and individuals involved in the land reclamation in the area are blacklisted by the US. As a tool to crack down on China, the Trump administration has added over 300 Chinese companies in the Entity List which requires them specific license for the export, reexport and/or transfer (in-country) of specified items.
These US sanctions are clear and unequivocal signs from the US side that it does not intend to allow China to do everything this country wants in the South China Sea region. They demonstrated the US's determination to prevent China from further building artificial islands and taking other actions here which the US views as militarization in this region. But not only that.
This US blow against China is the ultimate proof of US distrust of Chinese explanations of its actions in the South China Sea region. The US has finally recognized the need to include all issues relating to the South China Sea region into the US strategy toward China, together with many others.
The foremost consequence of the US latest move against China is the emerging of a new political, juridical and perhaps security, too, constellation between the US and China in this region, which could lead to intensification of all existing and long-standing conflicts between them.