Recent requirement by China that foreign fishing vessels need to seek approval to enter disputed portions of the South China Sea has caused concern.
The recent requirement by China that foreign fishing vessels need to seek approval to enter disputed portions of the South China Sea has caused concern in the region and could threaten this important economic resource for Asian economies.
The rule, which took effect on January 1, was approved by China’s Hainan provincial legislature in November as an update to broader national and provincial legislation. China has claimed sovereignty over vast areas of the resource-rich waterway, portions of which are also claimed by Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Taiwan.
The requirement for other countries’ vessels to get permission from Chinese authorities to fish in the area comes into effect just months after China proclaimed an Air Defense Identification Zone over vast waters and disputed islands in the East China Sea requiring foreign aircraft to submit flight plans in advance.
The Philippines issued a statement saying the new requirement “escalates tensions, unnecessarily complicates the situation in the South China Sea, and threatens the peace and stability of the region.” The Philippines also said the move is contrary to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that China signed with ASEAN. That declaration emphasized discussion and cooperation as the mechanism to resolve disputes. Vietnam said the regulation as well as other moves by China in recent months was “illegal and invalid.” Taiwan has also spoken out against the measure. Japan called the new maritime regulation by China “threatening to the international order.”
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki called the passing of restrictions on foreign countries’ fishing activities in disputed portions of the South China Sea a provocative and potentially dangerous act. China, she said, “has not offered any explanation or basis under international law for these extensive maritime claims.”
Spokesperson Psaki said that the United States has raised the issue directly with the Chinese government and that the United States’ “long-standing position has been that all concerned parties should avoid any unilateral action that raises tensions and undermines the prospects for a diplomatic or other peaceful resolution of differences.”