China’s newly-enacted Coast Guard Law allows the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”
The new law also empowers the CCG to halt construction or destroy foreign structures on Chinese-claimed land features, like those on the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island and Second Thomas Shoal.
Several Asian countries including Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia have opposed China’s law saying it could escalate maritime disputes and be invoked to assert “unlawful claims”.
The Philippines has filed a formal rejection of the law, emphasizing that, given the large area involved and China’s ongoing disputes in the South China Sea, the law is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies it.
The lack of a definition of ‘jurisdictional waters’ in the final version of the new law will increase the potential for conflict.
In addition to creating opportunities for misunderstandings between foreign vessels and the CCG, it gives the coastguard flexibility to conduct law enforcement outside of its traditional jurisdictional waters.