Philippines, Vietnam condemn China's fishing law

China’s assertiveness in pressing its claims in the waters has are unnerved its smaller neighbours and created a potential military flashpoint

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 3:35pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 5:07am

The Philippines and Vietnam have condemned a new Chinese regulation that requires foreign fishermen to seek Beijing's approval to operate in much of the South China Sea. But China's Foreign Ministry insisted it was within its rights.

Beijing's assertiveness in pressing its claims to the waters, which are believed to have seabed gas and oil deposits, has unnerved its neighbours and created a potential military flashpoint. Anger is acute in the Philippines and Vietnam, which believe they have claims on waters off their shores.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday that the new Chinese regulation "escalates tensions, unnecessarily complicates the situation in the South China Sea, and threatens the peace and stability of the region".

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said the law and other moves by China in recent months were "illegal and invalid" and violated Vietnam's sovereignty.

"Vietnam demands that China abolish the above said erroneous acts, and practically contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region," he said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Friday that there was no change to existing regulations, only a technical amendment. "There is no need at all to reinforce China's long-standing and clear claim of rights and interests over the South China Sea by passing a local regulation," Hua said. "There is nothing wrong with the law and the regulation," she added. "It is because those who read into the law adopted a wrong mindset."

The Philippines said it asked China for clarification. It said the regulation, which took effect this month, reinforced China's territorial claims and violated international law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It said the rule was contrary to a 2002 declaration that China signed with the 10-member Association of the Southeast Asian Nations, to refrain from changing the status quo.