China criticizes US sanctions over South China Sea buildup

FILE - In this July 6, 2020, file photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76, front) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68, rear) Carrier Strike Groups sail together in formation, in the South China Sea. The U.S. Navy says the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and its strike group entered the South China Sea earlier in August, 2020, and have been carrying out air operations.  China routinely objects to U.S. naval activity in the sea, especially when more than one strike group is present, as happened earlier this year, and when they involve operations with navies from other countries.  (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Tarleton/U.S. Navy via AP, File)
FILE - In this July 6, 2020, file photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76, front) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68, rear) Carrier Strike Groups sail together in formation, in the South China Sea. The U.S. Navy says the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and its strike group entered the South China Sea earlier in August, 2020, and have been carrying out air operations. China routinely objects to U.S. naval activity in the sea, especially when more than one strike group is present, as happened earlier this year, and when they involve operations with navies from other countries. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Tarleton/U.S. Navy via AP, File) (Public Domain)

BEIJING – China on Thursday accused the United States of violating international law by imposing sanctions on officials and companies involved in Beijing’s military buildup in the disputed South China Sea, but gave no indication of how it might retaliate.

The sanctions add to conflict over control of the sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The U.S. rejects China's claim to virtually the entire waterway, portions of which are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and other governments.

“The relevant U.S. acts grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs, violate international law and relevant international norms, which are totally out of hegemonic logic and power politics,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday announced penalties against an unspecified number of Chinese officials and 24 companies for their role in building artificial islands to enforce Beijing’s territorial claims. The companies were added to an “entity list” that limits access to U.S. exports without government permission.

“China will take firm measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of its enterprises and individuals,” Zhao said.

Chinese officials frequently make such vows, although specific responses are rare.

The Commerce Department said the companies were targeted for their role in building the artificial islands through dredging and other activities that cause environmental damage and infringe on other nations’ claims.

“The relevant construction China carried out on its own territory is entirely within the scope of sovereignty and has nothing to do with militarization,” Zhao said. “There is no reason for the U.S. side to impose illegal sanctions on Chinese enterprises and individuals because of their participation in relevant domestic construction.”