US imposes visa restrictions on Chinese persons responsible for militarization of South China Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 27) – The United States announced on Wednesday the imposition of visa restrictions on Chinese individuals involved in militarization activities in the South China Sea.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move is America’s way of showing support for a “free and open” South China Sea.

“We respect the sovereign rights of all nations, regardless of size, and seek to preserve peace and uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo elaborated those Chinese persons who will not be given visa are those “responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea.”

He also mentioned Chinese who are coercing Southeast Asian claimant nations to inhibit their access to offshore resources as part of the restricted list.

Also included in the visa restrictions list are workers of 24 People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-owned enterprises including subsidiaries of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and immediate family members of all those who fall in the tally stated by Pompeo.

“The United States will act until we see Beijing discontinue its coercive behavior in the South China Sea, and we will continue to stand with allies and partners in resisting this destabilizing activity,” remarked Pompeo.

The US emphasized China has been using its state-owned corporations to dredge and reclaim more than 3,000 acres of disputed features in the South China Sea, destabilize the region, trample on the sovereign rights of its neighbors, and cause untold environmental devastation.

Washington particularly mentioned CCCC which led the destructive dredging of Beijing’s South China Sea outposts and is involved in corruption, predatory financing, environmental destruction, and other abuses across the world.

“The PRC must not be allowed to use CCCC and other state-owned enterprises as weapons to impose an expansionist agenda,” Pompeo added.

In an interview with CNN Philippines last August 7, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian flagged American presence in South China Sea and stated they should stop “trying to make trouble” in the region.

"While we talk about US as outsiders, we expect outsiders to respect the efforts of regional countries in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. It’s a regret that we have seen US meddling vigorously in the South China Sea issue," Huang said.

In July, the US Navy conducted two massive drills in the hotly contested South China Sea by sending two aircraft carriers. These acts were heavily condemned by China.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled as invalid Beiing’s sweeping territorial stakes in the South China Sea and recognized Manila’s sovereign rights within its exclusive economic zone which China claims. Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and self-governing Taiwan also have their own territorial claims in the South China Sea.