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China defends law letting coast guard fire at sea

A law allowing its coast guard to fire at foreign vessels in the South China Sea is not meant to target specific countries, its embassy in Manila said on Monday.

“The China coast guard law doesn’t specifically target any certain country,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement after the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest last week. “The enactment of the law doesn’t indicate any change in China’s maritime policy.”

The law conforms to international conventions and practices, it said, comparing it to the charter of the Philippine Coast Guard. “None of these laws have been seen as a threat of war.”

The law passed by the National People’s Congress standing committee of China will allow its coast guard to use “all necessary means” against foreign vessels that threaten them, according to the South China Morning Post.

The United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 favored the Philippines in a lawsuit that rejected China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea based on its nine-dash line drawn on a 1940s map.

China has rejected the ruling, but committed to settle disputes in the disputed waterway through dialogue and negotiations with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct.

The Chinese Embassy cited “forces” that act on political interests or prejudice against China. It also dismissed reports of its coast guard harassing Filipino fishermen as fake news.

It also said the entry of its scientific survey ship into Philippine waters had been sensationalized as an intrusion.

The Chinese ship was seeking humanitarian shelter in Philippine waters due to unfavorable weather and sea conditions in the Pacific, it said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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