Japan: China's sea claims have left international community jittery

New fishing curbs announced by Beijing 'rattle nerves' from Washington to Japan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 January, 2014, 1:51pm

Japan yesterday joined the US in criticising China's new fishing restrictions in the South China Sea, saying the curbs, coupled with the launch last year of an air defence zone in the East China Sea, had left the international community jittery.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera made the comment after observing the Japanese Self-Defence Forces' elite airborne brigade conducting airdrop drills designed to hone their skills to defend and retake remote islands.

The fishing rules, approved by Hainan province, took effect on January 1 and require foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval to enter disputed waters in the South China Sea, which the local government said is under its jurisdiction.

We believe in free navigation, whether it’s in the air or on the sea

Washington called the fishing rules "provocative and potentially dangerous", prompting a rebuttal from China's Foreign Ministry on Friday.

Manila and Hanoi also condemned the rule yesterday.

The Philippine envoy in Beijing would meet her Chinese counterpart to "clarify" Beijing's latest move, deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said over the weekend. Valte said Manila would give its official response after the clarification.

"Our ambassador in China will speak to her counterpart there to get the lowdown on what these supposedly old regulations are," she said yesterday.

A Philippine fishermen's organisation, Pamalakaya, wrote a "humble appeal" to Beijing through Ma Keqing , the outgoing ambassador in the Philippines, requesting China rescind its order concerning fishing vessels in the South China Sea.

"We, the leaders and representatives of … [Pamalakaya], a national federation of small fisherfolk in the Philippines, submit this humble appeal to the Chinese government to recall the new fishing rule …," vice-chairman Salvador France wrote.

Pamalakaya asked China to negotiate the conflict through bilateral and multilateral channels.

Beijing has not yet assigned a new ambassador to Manila since Ma's term ended in December.

US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg has said the US would not take sides in the South China Sea dispute but "we believe in free navigation whether it's in the air or on sea ... that's where the United States stands, and we will continue to press those beliefs …".

Watch: What is the East China Sea dispute about?