• By The Financial District


China on Thursday, April 29, 2021, passed legislation to strengthen the power of its maritime safety authorities, state-run media reported.

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This has sparked fears that tensions between the Asian nation and other countries, including Japan, will escalate in the nearby waters, Kyodo News reported.

As Beijing claims that the Senkaku Islands, administered by Tokyo, in the East China Sea are part of its territory, the amendment of the Maritime Traffic Safety Law could target Japanese vessels navigating around the uninhabited islets, called Diaoyu in China.

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In February, China also enforced a controversial law allowing its coast guard to use weapons when foreign ships involved in illegal activities in waters it claims do not obey orders, making Sino-Japanese relations fragile over maritime security.

The latest revision to the law scheduled to be enforced on Sept. 1, was passed at the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The legislation will enable China's maritime safety agency, which belongs to the transportation ministry, to order foreign vessels to leave what the nation claims as its territorial waters if it judges that they could threaten security.

The agency can also block overseas ships from intruding into the territorial waters if they do not fall under innocent passage under international law. This has been rendered meaningless as US warships regularly sail in waters that China insists are its own on the basis of worn-out historical claims that the International Arbitration Court dismissed as worthless in a 2016 ruling favoring the Philippines.

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The leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping has so far adopted a hard-line posture in the South and East China seas as part of its goal of making the Communist-led country a "maritime power" even as China never ventured out of the South China Sea in more than 2,000 years and not one of the Chinese dynasties became a maritime power.

China has frequently sent official vessels to waters around the Senkakus in an attempt to lay claim to them, while Washington and Tokyo have agreed that the islets fall under the scope of a Japan-US security treaty. Beijing argues that the Diaoyu Islands and its affiliated islets are its "inherent territory" without any basis.


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