The US is concerned by China’s recently enacted coast guard law, which could escalate maritime disputes and be invoked to assert unlawful claims, the US Department of State said on Friday.
China, which has maritime sovereignty disputes with Taiwan and Japan in the East China Sea, and with Taiwan and several Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea, passed a law last month that for the first time explicitly allows its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels.
US Department of State spokesman Ned Price told a regular briefing that Washington was “concerned by language in the law that expressly ties the potential use of force, including armed force, by the China coast guard to the enforcement of China’s claims, and ongoing territorial and maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas.”
The language “strongly implies this law could be used to intimidate [China’s] maritime neighbors,” he said.
“We are further concerned that China may invoke this new law to assert its unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, which were thoroughly repudiated by the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling,” he said, referring to an international ruling that found in favor of the Philippines in a dispute with China.
Price said that the US reaffirmed a statement from July last year in which then-US secretary of state Mike Pompeo rejected China’s disputed claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea as “completely unlawful.”
The US “stands firm” in its alliance commitments to both Japan and the Philippines, Price added.
Meanwhile, members of the US House of Representatives on Friday introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning actions by the Chinese government and local authorities in Hong Kong that they said impeded on the rights and freedoms in the territory.
The resolution adds to growing calls in the US Congress for US President Joe Biden’s administration to push the Chinese Communist Party rulers in Beijing to respect human rights.
House lawmakers on Thursday reintroduced a bipartisan bill that would ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless it is certified they are not produced usings forced labor, and allow further sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for abuses against Uighurs.
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