The U.S. Department of Commerce has added the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to its export control blacklist for its role in furthering Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.
“China’s reckless and belligerent actions in the South China Sea . . . are a threat to U.S. national security and the security of the international community,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “CNOOC acts as a bully for the People’s Liberation Army to intimidate China’s neighbors."
CNOOC has attracted criticism for harassing and impeding other nations' offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction in the South China Sea, part of China's pressure campaign to impose its "nine-dash line" maritime claim over its neighbors' exclusive economic zones. China has repeatedly pressured Vietnam to abandon offshore exploration within the Vietnamese EEZ, and it succeeded in driving off international oil firm Repsol from a Vietnamese exploration lease in 2018. Last year, a drill rig operated by Noble unexpectedly quit an exploration campaign in a section of the Vietnamese EEZ that is frequently patrolled by Chinese vessels.
In 2012, CNOOC also attempted to lease segments of the Vietnamese EEZ to foreign oil companies, putting nine blocks - all located within Vietnamese-claimed waters, all more than 200 nm away from the Chinese mainland - up for auction.
The Trump administration already banned U.S. citizens from trading in shares in CNOOC in an executive order last month. The additional decision by the Department of Commerce to place the firm on its "entity list" means that it is subject to export restrictions.