Chinese crew

Philippines protests new China law as `verbal threat of war’

Philippines protests new China law as `verbal threat of war’


MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines has protested a new Chinese law that authorizes its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and destroy other countries’ structures on islands it claims, Manila’s top diplomat said Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that the new Chinese law “is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies” it. Failure to challenge the law “is submission to it,” he said.

“While enacting law is a sovereign prerogative, this one — given the area involved, or for that matter the open South China Sea — is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law,” Locsin said.


China’s Coast Guard Law, which was passed on Friday, empowers the force to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”

The law also authorizes the coast guard to demolish other countries’ structures built on reefs and islands claimed by China and to seize or order foreign vessels illegally entering China’s territorial waters to leave.

The Chinese law raises the stakes and the possibility of clashes with regional maritime rivals.

The Philippine protest is the latest strongly worded public criticism by Manila of China’s increasingly assertive actions in the disputed waters, despite cozier ties nurtured by President Rodrigo Duterte with Beijing. Last July, Locsin warned China of “the severest response” if military exercises being staged by China’s People’s Liberation Army in the South China Sea spilled over into Philippine territory.

China and the Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, have been locked in territorial rivalries in the South China Sea in tense decades-long standoffs. Indonesian forces also have had confrontations with the Chinese coast guard and fishing flotillas in what Indonesian officials say are their territorial waters near the South China Sea.

The United States has no claims in the strategic waterway but its naval forces have challenged China’s territorial claims over virtually the entire sea. China has warned the U.S. to stay away from what it says is a purely Asian dispute but Washington has said it would continue to deploy its warships to the disputed region.

A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, sailed into the South China Sea on Saturday to conduct “routine operations,” promote freedom of the seas and reassure America’s allies, Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo said in a statement.

Tensions flared in recent years after China transformed seven disputed reefs in the Spratlys, the most hotly contested region in the South China Sea, into missile-protected island bases, including three with military-grade runways. China and Southeast Asian nations have been negotiating a regional “code of conduct” to discourage aggression in the disputed waters but the talks have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s coast guard is also active in the vicinity of uninhabited East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

China seeks details about Chinese crew after tankers seized by Indonesia

China seeks details about Chinese crew after tankers seized by Indonesia

Panamanian-flagged MT Freya tanker is escorted to Batam, Riau Islands
Yew Lun Tian and Fathin Ungku

By Yew Lun Tian and Fathin Ungku

BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Wednesday it was seeking details about 25 of its nationals who were among 61 crew on two supertankers seized by Indonesia on suspicion of illegally transferring oil.

Indonesia said on Sunday it had seized the vessels after they were detected making the transfer from Iranian-flagged MT Horse to Panamanian-flagged MT Freya, causing an oil spill.

The Indonesian authorities said the seizure was not related to U.S. sanctions, which Washington imposed in a bid to shut off Iran’s oil exports in a dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The MT Horse, owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company, and MT Freya, managed by Shanghai Future Ship Management Co, were detected off Indonesia’s Kalimantan island.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said 25 of the crew members were Chinese, without saying whether the crew were all on one vessel or split between both.

“Our embassy has expressed concern to Indonesia,” Zhao said. “We urged them to verify the situation about the Chinese seamen as soon as possible and inform us formally.”

He said China called on Indonesia to conduct an investigation “fairly and in accordance with the law”.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah, told Reuters there had been “initial communication” with China and Iran, and said further discussion would depend on results from the investigation.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday the seizure of its tanker was over a technical issue and that it had asked Indonesia to provide more details.

Iran has been accused of seeking to conceal the destination of its oil sales by disabling tracking systems on its tankers.

The Indonesian authorities said the ships concealed their identity by not showing national flags, turning off automatic identification systems and failing to respond to a radio call.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires ships to use transponders for safety and transparency. Crews can turn off devices if there is a danger of piracy or similar hazards.

“We welcome the Indonesian Coast Guard efforts to counter illicit maritime activity,” a U.S. embassy spokesman in Jakarta told Reuters, saying Washington supported efforts to ensure IMO standards for safety and environmental compliance were upheld.

(Reporting by Fathin Ungku in Singapore, Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Agustinus Beo Da Costa in Jakarta; Editing by Florence Tan and Edmund Blair)