The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over a new Chinese law that authorises its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and destroy other countries’ structures on islands China claims.
The law was passed last Friday by China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress standing committee. Article 1 of the bill explains that the law is needed to safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and maritime rights. According to article 22 of the bill, the coast guard is allowed to use “all necessary means” to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels. It also goes on to specify the situations in which different kinds of weapons can be used.
The bill also allows coast guard personnel to board and inspect foreign vessels in waters claimed by China. China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. filed the protest, reversing a stance that he took on Monday when he said it was “none of [the Philippines] business” what laws China passes. In a Twitter post, he stated, “While enacting law is a sovereign prerogative, this one—given the area involved or for that matter the open South China Sea—is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law; which, if unchallenged, is submission to it.”
The US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Thursday reaffirmed that a strong U.S.-Philippine Alliance is vital to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. According to the press release by the U.S. Department of State:
Secretary Blinken stressed the importance of the Mutual Defense Treaty for the security of both nations, and its clear application to armed attacks against the Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea. Secretary Blinken also underscored that the United States rejects China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea to the extent they exceed the maritime zones that China is permitted to claim under international law.
Chinese foreign ministry has maintained that the coast guard law is in line with international practices. The law is set to take effect on February 1, 2021.