Vietnam weighs law for coast guard to open fire to protect sovereignty

By Reuters   April 12, 2018 | 09:27 am GMT+7
Vietnam weighs law for coast guard to open fire to protect sovereignty
Vietnamese Coast Guard officers looking at a sea chart in the East Sea. Photo by Reuters.
New law is set to authorize additional power for the country's maritine security force.

Vietnam wants to give its coast guard more flexibility to open fire at sea, amid tension in the busy East Sea waterway, a draft law released on Wednesday showed.

The law, expected to be voted by lawmakers at the end of this year, would allow greater assertiveness in disputed waters by the coast guard, now armed with modern U.S. and Japanese patrol boats, in a policy likely to alarm neighboring China.

China claims almost all the waters, known internationally as the South China Sea, athrough which about $3 trillion worth of sea-borne trade passes every year. Vietnam and four other countries also say they have rights in the sea, believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas.

Vietnam’s coast guard could open fire to “protect sovereignty and sovereign rights in defense and security situations,” said the draft, released on the website of the law making body, the National Assembly.

The coast guard could open fire to warn ships operating illegally in Vietnam’s waters if they did not heed its request to halt illegal activities, it added.

Vietnam now allows coast guard officials to open fire only if their lives and safety are threatened, or in the pursuit of offenders and ships at sea who might otherwise escape, or to protect citizens whose lives are at risk.

The United States has given Vietnam 12 patrol boats to strengthen the Southeast Asian’s nation maritime surveillance and protection capability. Japan has provided six used patrol boats and promised six new ones.

Vietnam is the country most openly at odds over parts of the disputed South China Sea with China, its biggest trade partner.

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