Rubio, Cardin Introduce Bill Penalizing Chinese Aggression In South China Sea
By John Walsh
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland introduced a bipartisan bill Wednesday that would penalize Chinese nationals and organizations for participating in China’s “illegitimate” construction of artificial islands across the South China Sea.
The legislation would "impose sanctions and prohibit visas for Chinese individuals and entities who contribute to construction or development projects, and those who threaten the peace, security or stability of the South China Sea or East China Sea," according to a statement from Rubio’s office.
China maintains claim to nearly 90 percent of the East China Sea, despite a mandate from an international tribunal last July awarding neighboring countries control of all islands located within their exclusive economic zones. The countries of Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have rights to exploit the South China Sea’s extensive reserves of oil and gas, where $5.3 trillion of trade passes through every year.
Exclusive economic zones, which were created in 1982 by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, gave coastal nations exclusive rights over all natural resources within 200 miles of their shores. Beijing dismissed the ruling and continues to deploy armed fishing boats and warships within other nations’ exclusive economic zones to enforce its claims.
China has reportedly constructed more than 3,000 acres of artificial militarized islands across the South China Sea, where an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas sit below the surface.
The potential bill would prevent American citizens from investing in any Chinese companies under sanctions. It would halt all foreign aid given to countries that recognize China’s claim over the islands in the South China Sea if those islands were contested by neighboring nations. And it would penalize foreign banks if they were caught doing business with any of the sanctioned China companies.
The bill is still in its early stages and hasn't been reviewed by House and Senate committees. It specifically mentions the names of Chinese companies that should be monitored by the U.S. government and sanctioned if proven to have been involved in the Chinese construction projects, including the prominent China National Offshore Oil Corporation.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to arrive in Beijing for diplomatic meetings Saturday, where he is expected to urge Chinese leaders to take a tougher stance on North Korea. It remains unclear whether Tillerson will confront China over its aggression in the South China Sea, given his highly publicized history of building oil rigs on the body of water.
Tillerson was reportedly instrumental in helping Exxon Mobil begin construction on a $10 billion natural gas field off of Vietnam’s central coast.