WASHINGTON: The United States announced sanctions on officials of Chinese state-owned enterprises and military on Thursday and added Chinese oil giant CNOOC to an economic blacklist, accusing them using coercion against states with rival claims in the South China Sea.
The moves by the Trump administration will further increase tensions with China, Washington's strategic rival in Asia, days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
China says Washington has sought to stir up controversy over maritime sovereignty claims and tried to destabilize the region by sending warships and planes to the South China Sea.
"The United States stands with Southeast Asian claimant states seeking to defend their sovereign rights and interests, consistent with international law," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in announcing the sanctions.
"We will continue to act until we see Beijing cease its coercive behavior in the South China Sea."
A statement from Pompeo said the United States was imposing visa restrictions on Chinese individuals, including executives of state-owned enterprises and officials of the Chinese Communist Party and navy.
He said the sanctions were directed against those "responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, or (China's) use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources in the South China Sea."
The restrictions could also apply to immediate family members, he said.
The Commerce Department accused CNOOC of harassing and threatening offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction in the South China Sea, "with the goal of driving up the political risk for interested foreign partners, including Vietnam."
The department added CNOOC to an "Entity List" that requires firms to be granted a special license before they can receive exports of high-tech items from US suppliers.
The department also said it was adding Chinese aviation firm Skyrizon to a Military End-User (MEU) List over its ability to develop military products including aircraft engines, restricting its access to US exports.