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New Law In China Allows Coast Guard To Open Fire On Foreign Vessels




  • Beijing has passed a new law, permitting the Chinese coast guard to open fire on foreign vessels.
  • The new law specifically instructs the coast guard to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons.”
  • The said legislation has since received mixed reactions, with several experts pointing out it could potentially lead to greater conflicts.

China recently issued an order that permits its coast guards to open fire on foreign vessels and destroy any structures built within their jurisdiction.

In a law passed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, coast guards have been instructed to use “all necessary means” whenever they encounter foreign threats “under China’s jurisdiction.” This means coast guard commanders are allowed to launch pre-emptive strikes or dismantle structures built in Chinese-claimed waters.

Passed last Friday, the legislation empowers the Chinese coast guard 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”.

Naturally, the new law has posed a serious concern among neighboring countries.

Research fellow Collin Koh of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University pointed out that the order could lead to conflicts and misunderstandings.

Koh explained:

“[Though] promulgating a coastguard law (CGL) is a general practice that other countries have been doing (such as Vietnam back in late 2018), China’s CGL contains ambiguous language that begs proper definition, for instance ‘waters under national jurisdiction’.

Koh continued:

Koh likewise added that the instruction for Chinese coastguards to open fire when they deem it necessary “may be prone to abuse.”

“This also means the law bestows … the authority to use force to assert those rights against other foreign parties even when operating in the latter’s legitimate [exclusive economic zone].

“Generally it means heightening the risk of miscalculation and could possibly even create a deterrent effect on others’ law enforcement actions against Chinese fishermen.”

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