US concerned over China’s 'interference' with oil, gas activities in South China Sea

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Title: US concerned over China’s 'interference' with oil, gas activities in South China Sea

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 21) — The United States has expressed concern over reports that China is interfering with other countries' oil and gas activities in the South China Sea.

In a statement Saturday, the State Department said China's "repeated provocative actions aimed at the offshore oil and gas development of other claimant states threaten regional energy security and undermine the free and open Indo-Pacific energy market."

It particularly cited the long-standing exploration and production activities by Vietnam in the disputed area.

Vietnam is among the countries with overlapping claims over the strategic waters, along with Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

A 2016 international tribunal ruling on a case filed by the Philippines invalidated China's claim to practically the entire South China Sea, but Beijing has ignored the ruling. The tribunal also took China to task for stopping in 2011 the Philippines' petroleum exploration in Reed Bank, which the ruling said is part of the Philippines continental shelf.

"China’s reclamation and militarization of disputed outposts in the SCS (South China Sea), along with other efforts to assert its unlawful SCS maritime claims, including the use of maritime militia to intimidate, coerce, and threaten other nations, undermine the peace and security of the region," the State Department said.

China's growing pressures on members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to "accept Code of Conduct provisions that seek to restrict their right to partner with third party companies or countries further reveal its intent to assert control over oil and gas resources in the South China Sea," it added.

The department cited a statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “by blocking development in the SCS through coercive means, China prevents ASEAN members from accessing more than $2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves.”

"China should cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activity," it said.