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The State Department has warned China to halt "bullying" in the South China Sea as part of a dispute with Vietnam over oil and gas exploration in the disputed waterway.
In a blunt statement issued Saturday, department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said China was interfering with Vietnam's "long-standing" exploration and production of undersea energy resources.
China - Actions - Oil - Gas - Development
"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," Ortagus said.
"China should cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activity," she stated.
Secretary - State - Mike - Pompeo - Year
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this year that China has been blocking development in the South China Sea through coercive measures and as a result is preventing regional states from developing an estimated $2.5 trillion in energy reserves.
"China's reclamation and militarization of disputed outposts in the [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," Ortagus said.
China - Members - Association - Southeast - Nations
Additionally, China has been pressuring members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to accept an agreement that would restrict regional states' abilities to partner with third party companies and countries.
The coercion is an indication Beijing is seeking "to assert control over oil and gas resources in the South China Sea," the spokeswoman said.
United - States - Coercion - Intimidation - Claimant
"The United States firmly opposes coercion and intimidation by any claimant to assert its territorial or maritime claims," she said.
The sea has become a flashpoint in U.S.-China relations, along with trade disputes over Chinese technology theft and unfair trade practices.
China - Percent - Sea - Maritime - Territory
China tried to claim 90 percent of the sea as historical maritime territory in an unprecedented bid to take control of the...
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