The State Department said the wording of the law could be used by Beijing to intimidate its neighbors in the region amid the tension in the South China Sea.
The United States is concerned about China’s recently enacted coast guard law and that it could exacerbate maritime disputes and be used to assert illegal claims, the US State Department said on Friday. .
China, which has maritime sovereignty disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and with several Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea, passed a law last month that for the first time , explicitly authorizes its Coast Guard to shoot at foreign ships.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told a regular briefing that Washington was “ concerned about the wording of the law that expressly links the potential use of force, including armed force, to the Chinese Coast Guard to the application of China’s claims and to ongoing territorial and maritime disputes. in the East and South China Seas. “
He said the language, “strongly implies that this law could be used to intimidate [China’s] maritime neighbors. “
“We are further concerned that China may invoke this new law to assert its illegal maritime claims in the South China Sea, which were completely rejected by the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling,” he said. referring to an international ruling that ruled in favor of the Philippines in a dispute with China.
“We remind the PRC and all forces whose forces operate in the South China Sea that the responsible maritime forces act with professionalism and restraint in the exercise of their powers.”
Price said the United States reaffirmed a statement last July in which then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected China’s disputed claims to offshore resources in much of the China Sea. southern as “totally illegal”.
He added that the United States is “firmly keeping” its alliance commitments to Japan and the Philippines.
The South China Sea dispute was among the issues addressed by US President Joe Biden in his first call as an American leader with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
‘Threat of war’
The United States has entered into mutual defense treaties with the two countries and has conducted regular naval patrols in the region to assert freedom of navigation and challenge China’s vast maritime claims.
In recent weeks, it has deployed warships and aircraft carriers to patrol the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
The Philippines said last month it had lodged a diplomatic protest against China’s new law, describing it as a “threat of war.”
Previously, the new Secretary of State Antony Blinken had expressed his concern about China’s maritime law during a call with his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi.
Blinken then reaffirmed that the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea – also claimed by Beijing, which calls them the Diaoyu, and Taiwan – fall under a security treaty that commits the United States and Japan to mutually defend themselves.
China has repeatedly defended its new Chinese Coast Guard law, downplaying its effect in the disputed region.
In January, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that China was only defending its “territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.”
Zhao also said that Beijing remains committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes.
“China’s sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea have been formed over a long history and are in accordance with international law and practice,” Zhao added.
Zhao added that countries “outside the region” will respect Beijing’s efforts “to properly handle maritime disputes” and “safeguard stability” in the South China Sea.