The entire South China Sea (SCS) is now under the highest state of alert after Beijing passed a new law allowing the Chinese Coast Guard to “employ deadly force” to protect its security and maritime rights against foreign ships found to be encroaching in its waters.
Under the newly-approved law, which took effect February 1, all coast guard ships have been authorized 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 and individuals at sea.”
The new law that was recently passed by the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, also empowers the coast guard to demolish other countries’ structures built on reefs and islands claimed by China and to seize or order foreign vessels illegally entering China’s territorial waters to leave.
While the Philippines can only resort to verbal protests, countries like France, U.K. and the U.S. are sending warships on freedom-of-navigation missions to test China’s resolve in the hotly-contested waters that it claims virtually in its entirety, but where Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have their own territorial claims.
The other week, the US Navy ordered the aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt into the SCS to promote ‘freedom of the seas” which China promptly countered with a naval drill involving three of its warships.
The SCS is regarded as a strategic area which China covets dearly because an estimated $2 trillion in global trade traverse its waters annually, aside from fish stocks and undersea deposits of oil and natural gas.
PHOTO: Defense News / forbes.com