Envoy: No need to overinterpret China’s new Coast Guard law; no 'strong measure' vs. fishermen

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5)— There is no need to overinterpret China’s new Coast Guard Law, Beijing's ambassador to the Philippines said Friday, stressing that “no strong measure” will be carried out against any fishermen plying the contested waters.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines, Ambassador Huang Xilian said the law, which authorizes the Chinese Coast Guard to fire on foreign vessels, was crafted to crack down on “extremely vicious” crimes only.

“We don’t have to see any overinterpretation of the China Coast Guard law,” Huang told The Source.

“The China Coast Guard will not take any strong measure against any fishermen— before or after the formulation of this law. Sometimes, interpretation and reading of such domestic activities of China is not necessary," he added.

Huang also argued that there has been “no such case” of their Coast Guard firing at Filipino fishermen in the disputed seas.

Advocacy groups and some lawmakers earlier raised concern over the controversial new law, which also allows the Chinese Coast Guard to demolish foreign structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs and islands, as well as to set up exclusion zones to keep foreign vessels out.

The Philippine government has filed a diplomatic protest against the East Asian giant over the measure, which formally took effect on Feb. 1, saying it is “a verbal threat of war” to any country that defies it.

Huang again brushed aside this claim, saying the law should not be viewed as a threat as many countries have also enacted similar measures. He added that the policy is not targeted at any specific country or group of people.

“There’s no change in terms of China’s foreign policy, and no change in the the action of China Coast Guard before or after the formulation of the law,” Huang said.

The Republic Act No. 9993 or the Philippine Coast Guard Law of 2009 provides power to the PCG to enforce regulations in accordance with maritime laws and treaties, but does not mention use of force similar to the East Asian giant’s fresh policy.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, and has repeatedly rejected the 2016 arbitral ruling that recognized Manila's sovereign rights in areas of its exclusive economic zone that Beijing contests.

Huang noted that negotiations with other claimant nations for a Code of Conduct, which will determine actions parties can take in disputed waters, are still ongoing.