China stiffens fishing regulations in disputed maritime area

The Government of China has passed new regulations for illegally fishing in its waters, including the disputed South China Sea, and also for harvesting coral or giant clams, which shows its firm rejection of The Hague Arbitration Court's ruling.

These measures are known several weeks after the international tribunal dismissed China's claim to most of the South China Sea in an attempt to settle maritime disputes the country has with a number of other nations, including Japan and Vietnam, AFP reported.

The Chinese new regulations outline penalties for both Chinese and "foreign" fishermen operating "illegally" in Chinese waters, including its "exclusive economic zone" (EEZ), an area where the Chinese coastguard regularly expels fishing vessels from the Philippines.

Furthermore, China's Defence Minister Chang Wanquan has urged preparations for a "people's war at sea" to counter offshore security threats and safeguard sovereignty.

The initiative taken by Chinese authorities stems from the fact that several Asian states have counter-claims in the disputed area and the United States have decided to continue naval patrols close to the reefs and outcrops to assert the principle of freedom of navigation.

"The risk of conflict is increasing in the South China Sea due to lack of unified position of ASEAN," pointed out Prof. Michael Heazle of Griffith University in Australia, reported.

"The lack of unified position of ASEAN is allowing major powers to come into play," warned Heazle.

In his opinion, unity in ASEAN as a political front would be needed "to keep the situation from escalating into greater tension between the great powers."

For his part, Sumathy Permal, senior researcher of Center for Maritime Security and Diplomacy, Maritime Institute of Malaysia said failure of ASEAN to come up with a unified position will create three scenarios where China will be able to increase military presence in the disputed waters.

In his viewpoint, the sea disputes will be causing more conflict of the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) between China and major powers; China will be able to push through with building marine nuclear plants; and, China will continue to hold military exercises over the disputed waters.

China has conducted an effort throughout the South China Sea in recent years, transforming reefs into artificial islands that can support military installations, ignoring competing claims in the region by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, as well as the Philippines, VOA News informed.

An estimated USD 5 trillion in global trade passes each year through the South China Sea, which is home to rich fishing grounds and a potentially vast wealth of oil, gas and other natural resources.

Source: Fish Info & Services