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US: China's new coast guard law might escalate maritime disputes

News Agencies | Updated on: 20 February 2021, 10:55 IST

The United States on Friday expressed concern over China's recently enacted coast guard law, saying it may escalate ongoing territorial and maritime disputes.

"The United States joins the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, and other countries in expressing concern with China's recently enacted coast guard law, which may escalate ongoing territorial and maritime disputes," Sputnik quoted State Department spokesperson Ned Price as saying.

Price said they are specifically concerned about language in the law that ties potential use of force, including armed force, to the enforcement of China's claims in territorial and maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas.

Last month, China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress Standing Committee, passed the coastguard law that empowers the coastguard to use "all necessary means" to deter threats posed by foreign vessels in waters "under China's jurisdiction".

It allows the coastguards to launch pre-emptive strikes without prior warning if commanders deem it necessary.

Under the new law, coastguard personnel can demolish structures built or installed by other countries in Chinese-claimed waters and board and inspect foreign ships in the area.

Chinese coastguard ships have played a leading role in asserting China's maritime claims, including in fishing disputes off Indonesia's Natuna Islands and the stand-off with Vietnam over Vanguard Bank.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea, something which is contested heavily by several countries in the region.

The Philippines has protested against the new law and said it will beef up its naval presence in the South China Sea to protect its fisherman.

Earlier this month, Tokyo had also conveyed its 'strong concerns' to China over the new law authorising military force in the waters. China must not use the legislation, in a way that goes against international law, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato.

China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and its efforts to advance into the Indian Ocean are seen to have challenged the established rules-based system.

China has been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly in response to Beijing's concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions.


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First published: 20 February 2021, 10:52 IST