China’s maritime police law raises risk of armed conflict, Japanese foreign minister calls on Beijing not to violate international law

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimichi Mogi on Friday (Jan. 29) called on China to ensure that the law allowing the Chinese maritime police to use force is in line with relevant international law.

It is important that the implementation of this legislation does not violate international law,” Toshimichi said at a press conference, as quoted by Kyodo News.

Last Friday, China’s National People’s Congress passed the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Maritime Police, which states that in the face of “unlawful infringement” by foreign countries, the maritime police agencies have the right to take “all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, to stop the infringement and eliminate the danger.

Article 47 of the Marine Police Law also mentions that if a foreign vessel enters the waters under Chinese jurisdiction to engage in illegal production operations and refuses to obey the instructions of the Chinese marine police, the marine police personnel may use weapons.

Toshichika Mogi said Japan will “continue to closely monitor” the actions of the Chinese Coast Guard, including how the implementation of the legislation will affect the situation.

Observers say the law will bring new risks to the Sino-Japanese territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands (known in China as the Diaoyu Islands). China claims the Senkaku Islands, which have long been under Japanese jurisdiction, as Chinese territory. Both countries have stepped up patrols in the area in recent years, with occasional confrontations between their maritime police vessels. But so far, the standoffs have been largely peaceful. However, if the Chinese side begins to enforce this law, the possibility of armed conflict between the two countries in these waters will increase significantly.

In a recent interview with the Voice of America, Li Zhengxiu, a military expert from Taiwan‘s National Policy Research Foundation, said that this law could affect Japanese ships operating near the Senkaku Islands and that Japanese Coast Guard vessels could be targeted by the Chinese Coast Guard.

However, the Taiwan expert believes the law is not yet a threat to the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy. He said, “The Indo-Pacific strategy does not yet see mainland China as a real military threat to its adversaries. They don’t feel that mainland China has the means to really threaten U.S. military deployments here at this point, only that they will be watching closely, so the changes to China’s Maritime Police Act do not yet pose a real threat to the United States at this point.”

Japan’s Kyodo News quoted Toshiaki Mogi as saying that Japan would react “calmly and decisively” to possible actions by the Chinese maritime police to protect Japanese territory.

The Philippines, which has a maritime territorial dispute with China, had already lodged a diplomatic protest with the Chinese two days ago over the new law. “After much deliberation, I filed a diplomatic protest,” Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted, adding that the Maritime Police Act “is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies it, and if no one challenges it, (countries) will just give in. are yielding to it.”

Philippine Congresswoman Risa Hontiveros also took to Twitter on Wednesday to urge the Philippine government to express concern over China’s maritime police law and to condemn China’s recent harassment of Filipino fishermen near Zhongye Island in the South China Sea, which China calls the South China Sea.