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China requires fishing vessels to seek approval before entering its waters in S China Sea

Publication Date : 11-01-2014


Barely two months after its new air defence zone over the East China Sea unnerved neighbouring countries and the United States, China has them worried again by requiring foreign fishing vessels to seek approval before entering its waters in the South China Sea.

The latest move triggered fears that Beijing is setting up a maritime version of the Air Defence Identification Zone it launched on November 23. The air zone includes the disputed Diaoyu/ Senkaku islands claimed by China and Japan.

The fishing regulation took effect on January 1, and prompted Washington to call it "a provocative and potentially dangerous act".

The stakes are high as competition hots up in the South China Sea, an area which has not only rich fishing grounds, but also potentially abundant mineral, oil and natural gas deposits.

"The passing of these restrictions on other countries' fishing activities in disputed portions of the South China Sea is a provocative and potentially dangerous act," State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said at a news briefing in Washington on Wednesday.

Rejecting US criticisms yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said they either reflect a lack of basic understanding of China's law- making process or stem from ulterior motives.

"For more than 30 years, China's relevant fisheries laws and regulations have been consistently implemented in a normal way, and have never caused any tension," she told reporters.

"China's position on its territorial claims in the South China Sea has been consistent and clear. We do not need to rely on local laws to bolster our claims."

Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan, which along with Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, have also slammed the rule, which was passed on November 29, but reported by foreign media only this week.

"All foreign activities at these areas without Vietnam's acceptance are illegal and groundless," Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said when asked about the rule passed last November by legislators on Hainan Island to implement China's national fisheries law.

It requires foreign fishing boats to seek permission from "relevant departments under the State Council" to fish or carry out surveys on fisheries resources within waters administered by the southernmost island province.

It did not spell out the penalties but, under the 2004 fisheries law, boats entering Chinese territory without permission could lose their catch and have their equipment seized, and also face fines of up to 500,000 yuan (US$105,000).

Some analysts believe there is no need for increased concern as such a restriction has existed for more than two decades.



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