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Chinese law allowing coast guard to fire on foreign vessels goes into effect

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Chinese law allowing coast guard to fire on foreign vessels goes into effect

Chinese Coast Guard
Photo: Kyodo/Nikkei

A Chinese law authorising its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels in waters claimed by Beijing takes effect today.

The law permits the use of force where foreign vessels are deemed threats to Chinese national security. It follows disputes between China and neighboring states over maritime claims in the East China Sea and much of the oil-rich South China Sea (SCS). Contention over prospective offshore drilling has triggered recent standoffs between China and Vietnam and frequent tailing of Chinese vessels.

Due to recent military exercises, naval patrols by China and the US within contested areas, Chinese construction of islands within the SCS, and Beijing’s attempts to protect its fishing industry through foreign vessel seizures, tensions have risen. Claimants with strong US ties, such as Japan, have urged American engagement in the region, despite Chinese insistence that disputes be handled by Asian states.

Expect aggressive implementation of Beijing’s law to intensify US naval activity within the region in the form of freedom of navigation exercises. Nevertheless, as a treaty partner to multiple claimants, expect the US to utilise diplomacy, including sanctions and a modified Trans-Pacific Partnership, to make open hostilities less attractive to China and while strengthening US allies.

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