efe-epaWashington

The United States told China on Saturday to stop hampering oil and gas production in the waters of the South China Sea (SCS), and warned that such provocations threaten regional security.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that the US was concerned about China's attempts to block other nations' activities in the SCS, with particular reference to Vietnamese gas and oil exploration and production, and added that "China should cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activity."

The spokeswoman said that "China's reclamation and militarization of disputed outposts in the SCS, 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."

She cited a statement at the beginning of the year by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who, according to the note, said that "by blocking development in the SCS through coercive means, China prevents ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members from accessing more than $2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves."

ASEAN, founded in August 1967, is made up of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

"The United States firmly opposes coercion and intimidation by any claimant to assert its territorial or maritime claims," added the statement, in which Washington stressed that China "should cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activity."

In July of last year, the United States indicated China as one of the various threats existing in the Indo-Pacific region due to its growing military presence in waters of the South China Sea.

Pompeo told a press conference then that a lot of time had been spent talking about how to defend the Indo-Pacific region, where various threats exist including China.

In the South China Sea, Brunei, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam claim all or part of the Spratly Islands, an archipelago of some 100 reefs and islets, mostly unpopulated but rich in oil, gas and fishing grounds. EFE-EPA lb/cd