China calls for nations to ‘objectively and correctly view’ new coastguard law

Catherine Wong
·3-min read

China has called on nations to “objectively and correctly view” its new coastguard law after Japan expressed concern over the legislation, which authorises pre-emptive strikes on foreign vessels.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi raised Tokyo’s “strong concerns” about the new law in a virtual meeting with his British counterpart and defence ministers from the two countries on Wednesday. The two sides also said they “shared grave concerns” over Beijing’s assertiveness in the East and South China seas.

The law, which was passed in late January and took effect on Monday, allows Chinese coastguard vessels to fire on foreign vessels and demolish structures built in disputed waters. The coastguard is empowered to use “all necessary means” to deter threats posed by foreign vessels in waters “under China’s jurisdiction”. Coastguard vessels can also launch pre-emptive strikes without prior warning if commanders deem it necessary.

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The law has heightened concerns among China’s neighbours that it could take a more aggressive approach in maritime disputes. The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over the legislation, which foreign minister Teodoro Locsin called “a verbal threat of war to any country that defies it”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the new law was “part of China’s normal legislative activities”. Photo: Kyodo
Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the new law was “part of China’s normal legislative activities”. Photo: Kyodo

Responding to the Japanese foreign minister’s remarks on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said nations should not make “unwarranted comments” on what Beijing sees as domestic legislation.

“The coastguard law is part of China’s normal legislative activities, which are in line with international practice. China’s legislation process has been open and transparent,” Wang said.

“We hope relevant countries can objectively and correctly view this law, and they should not make unwarranted comments about this.”

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Apparently referring to the meeting of Japanese and British ministers, Wang said any cooperation between nations should not harm the interests of third countries and should not undermine the mutual trust between countries in the region.

Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi hold virtual talks with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Defence Minister Ben Wallace on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi hold virtual talks with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Defence Minister Ben Wallace on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

During their “two-plus-two meeting”, Tokyo and London agreed to strengthen security ties and said the two militaries would hold joint exercises in the region, according to Japan’s foreign ministry.

Motegi also said Japan welcomed Britain’s plan to send an aircraft carrier strike group led by the Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s largest warship, to the western Pacific later this year.

In separate talks on Wednesday, China called on Japan to avoid taking any action that would complicate their maritime dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, or Senkakus, in the East China Sea during a videoconference between officials from the two countries. Beijing said in a statement on Thursday that its officials had responded to concerns raised by Japan over the coastguard law in the meeting, again describing it as “normal legislation”. It said the two sides had also reiterated their commitment to set up a hotline for defence officials to avoid clashes at sea.

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