NEW YORK – US-China tensions over the South China Sea escalated on Wednesday (Aug 26) as Beijing fired two missiles into the disputed waterway and the Trump administration added 24 Chinese companies to a list of entities facing trade restrictions for helping build outposts in the region.
Amid ongoing military drills, China launched two medium-range missiles into the South China Sea on Wednesday, the South China Morning Post reported.
It wasn’t immediately clear if there were US ships in the area.
The move came a day after Beijing protested a flyover by a US spy plane earlier this week.
Also on Wednesday, the US announced trade and visa restrictions on two dozen companies, for their efforts to help China “reclaim and militarise disputed outposts” in the contested maritime area, according to a statement from the US Department of Commerce.
Among those on the list were units of state-owned China Communications Construction Co, one of the largest builders of projects in the country’s “Belt and Road” initiative, as well as Guangzhou Haige Communication Group Co, which makes digital communication and global positioning system gear.
“The United States, China’s neighbours, and the international community have rebuked the CCP’s sovereignty claims to the South China Sea and have condemned the building of artificial islands for the Chinese military,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, using an abbreviation for the Chinese Communist party.
“The entities designated today have played a significant role in China’s provocative construction of these artificial islands and must be held accountable.”
In a related statement, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the US “will begin imposing visa restrictions on People’s Republic of China individuals responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarisation of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, or the PRC’s use of coercion against South-east Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources.”
The Trump administration is trying to push back against what the US sees as an intensifying Chinese campaign to dominate the resource-rich South China Sea and smaller nations in the region.
Reversing a previous position, the administration last month rejected China’s expansive maritime claims in the region, and it has pressed allies in the region to take a stronger stance.
Earlier in the day, Vietnam called on China to cancel its drills this week near the Paracel Islands, saying they violated the country’s sovereignty.