Washington Warns New China Maritime Law Seriously Threatens Freedom of Navigation

The US Department of Defense dismissed on Wednesday China’s new regulation mandating all foreign ships entering the South China Sea to register with Chinese maritime authorities, calling it a serious threat to freedom of navigation and trade, the South China Morning Post reports.

The new requirements – amendment to China’s 1983 Maritime Traffic Safety Law- apply to all submersibles, nuclear vessels, and ships carrying potentially dangerous cargo (oil, liquefied gas, toxic chemicals ect.)

It has accused Beijing of undermining international law by tightening regulations for foreign vessels entering its territorial waters in the South China Sea amid the increased tensions, with Pentagon spokesperson John Supple reiterating the US firm stand that any coastal state law or regulation must not infringe upon navigation and overflight rights enjoyed by all nations in line with the international law.

Supple underscored that such unlawful and sweeping maritime claims are a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, the free trade and unimpeded lawful commerce as well as and the rights and interests of South China Sea and other littoral nations.

Meanwhile, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Meiners pointed that the US, under international law, will continue to fly, sail and transit those areas and operate wherever international law allows.

US Navy’s 7th Fleet routinely transits the areas China has claimed as its territorial waters, including the Taiwan Strait and island in the South China Sea and is regularly criticized by Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, recently underscored that China’s sovereignty and rights in the South China Sea stem from the demarcation line – called nine-dash line- adopted from a 1947 Chinese map although UN tribunal declared in 2016 some of its claims in the South China Sea unlawful under the Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

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