China plans to block foreign ships from waters it claims as its own

By VnExpress   February 17, 2017 | 06:19 am PT
Foreign submarines passing through these waters would be required to surface and fly national flags.

China has announced plans to revise a 34-year-old maritime safety law and start banning some foreign ships from its territorial waters in 2020.

Chinese state media reported that a revised version of the 1984 Maritime Traffic Safety Law would provide China with the legal firepower to restrict access to waters it claims as its own.

“The draft would empower maritime authorities to prevent foreign ships from entering Chinese waters if it is deemed that the ships could harm traffic safety and order,” the Global Times said in a recent report.

The Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council said this week that it would accept public commentary before making the final adjustment, assuring that it will abide by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Chinese laws and exclusive economic zones, Russia's Sputnik reported.

Submarines operated by other countries would be required to pass through the area on the surface, display national flags and report their movements within the territory claimed by China to the country’s maritime management administration, the draft said.

Foreign ships would be required to apply for a pilot’s license, and those crossing Chinese waters without consent would be fined between $43,706 and $73,000, it said.

“The revisions will strengthen China’s management over territorial waters in a new era when the country’s communication and trade with foreign countries in the waters have sharply increased,” Yang Cuibai, a Chinese legal scholar, was quoted by the Global Times as saying.

Sputnik commented that the revision could receive resistance from the U.S., whose policy since 1983 states that it “will not, however, acquiesce in unilateral acts of other states designed to restrict the rights and freedoms of the international community and overflight and other related high seas uses”.

China is involved in various territorial disputes in the Asia-Pacific region. It claims almost all of the South China Sea (known as the East Sea in Vietnam), through which ships carry about $5 trillion in trade every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the sea, which is also believed to be rich in energy resources and fish stocks.

China is embroiled in a dispute with Japan in the East China Sea over ownership of a group of islands that lie about 220km northeast of Taiwan, known as the Senkakus in Tokyo and the Diaoyu Islands in Beijing.

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