BEIJING: Beijing on Friday rejected United States (US) criticism of a measure requiring foreign fishing vessels to secure permission to enter much of the South China Sea, which it claims almost in its entirety.
The rule—which comes as tensions have escalated over overlapping claims with the Philippines, Vietnam and other nations—was called “provocative” by the US.
But it is largely identical to an existing measure from 2004, and reports said similar rules had also been declared in 1998 and 1993.
As well as the South China Sea dispute, Beijing is embroiled in a bitter row with Japan over small uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
Beijing insisted the latest move was aimed at protecting fishing resources.
“We express dissatisfaction and opposition” to the US reaction, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.
“If someone insists on calling technical revisions to a local fishing regulation that has already been implemented for years a matter of regional tension, a threat to regional stability, then all I can say is, this is either a lack of basic common sense or some ulterior motive.”
The measure took effect last week after being passed in November by China’s southern island province of Hainan, and echoed previous rules making the same demand.
It states that foreign fishing vessels and individuals entering Hainan-administered waters “should obtain permission from the relevant authority.”
The rule applies to two million square kilometers of waters covered by Hainan, the official Xinhua news agency reported last month, without specifying the exact area or potential enforcement measures.
But that total area accounts for a large part of the South China Sea, portions of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
The US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Thursday called the move a “provocative and potentially dangerous act.”
Separately, China is facing growing tensions with fellow Asian giant Japan over islands in the East China Sea that have raised concerns of an unintended conflict.
China’s declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over an area covering the disputed islands triggered an international furor in November.
The ADIZ requires foreign aircraft to declare their intentions and maintain communications with Chinese authorities or face unspecified “defensive emergency measures.”
The Philippine Embassy in Beijing has asked for a meeting with China’s foreign ministry to clarify the new fisheries law it has imposed in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In a statement on Friday, Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the new fisheries law is a “gross violation” of international laws that “escalates tensions, unnecessarily complicates the situation in the South China Sea and threatens the peace and stability of the region.”
“We are gravely concerned by this new regulation that would require foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval from Chinese regional authorities before fishing or surveying in a large portion of the South China Sea,” Hernandez said.
“These regulations seriously violate the freedom of navigation and the right to fish of all states in the high seas, as provided for under UNCLOS [the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea],” Hernandez said. “Under customary international law, no state can subject the high seas to its sovereignty.”
AFP and Bernice Camille V. Bauzon