Things seem to be ramping up once again between China and the U.S. over the disputed territory in the South China Sea. This morning Sec. of State Pompeo announced the administration was blacklisting Chinese officials connected to the construction and militarization of islands in the region.

Today, the Department of State will begin imposing visa restrictions on People’s Republic of China (PRC) individuals responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, or the PRC’s use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources.  These individuals will now be inadmissible into the United States, and their immediate family members may be subject to these visa restrictions as well.  In addition, the Department of Commerce has added 24 PRC state-owned enterprises to the Entity List, including several subsidiaries of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

Since 2013, the PRC 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 untold environmental devastation.  CCCC led the destructive dredging of the PRC’s South China Sea outposts and is also one of the leading contractors used by Beijing in its global “One Belt One Road” strategy.  CCCC and its subsidiaries have engaged in corruption, predatory financing, environmental destruction, and other abuses across the world.

That announcement came around the same time that China launched one of its most advanced missiles into the South China Sea as a show of force. Officially, the reason for the launch was that a US spy plane had flown over Chinese naval exercises:

China launched two missiles, including an “aircraft-carrier killer”, into the South China Sea on Wednesday morning, a source close to the Chinese military said, sending a clear warning to the United States.

The move came one day after China said a US U-2 spy plane entered a no-fly zone without permission during a Chinese live-fire naval drill in the Bohai Sea off its north coast…

“This is China’s response to the potential risks brought by the increasingly frequent incoming US warplanes and military vessels in the South China Sea,” the source said. “China doesn’t want the neighbouring countries to misunderstand Beijing’s goals.”

Obviously, firing an “aircarft-carrier killer” isn’t intended as a threat against a spy plane. The U.S. has been carrying out what it calls ‘freedom of navigation operations‘ in the South China Sea for months. Essentially, U.S. aircraft carriers have been sailing through the territory that China claims is theirs and which the U.S. and others say is international waters.

Back in July when the U.S. carried out one of these operations Chinese state media published photos of the missiles fired today and claimed the U.S. was only in the region because China was allowing it:

The U.S. response to this implied threat was pretty funny.

Finally, here’s China’s foreign ministry spokesman offering a pretty lame PR response to Sec. Pompeo’s speech at the RNC last night. This is the same guy who was suggesting the coronavirus came from the United States just a few months ago. He said, “any attempt to change or contain China is doomed to failure.” We’ll have to see if this continues to escalate but I think this conflict is one reason China would prefer that President Trump lose the 2020 election.