China has passed a new law which allows its coast guard to shoot foreign vessels and destroy other countries' structures on maritime features that it has claimed, Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) reported.
In addition, the law also allows the Chinese coast guard to board and inspect foreign vessels in waters that it has claimed, as well as enforce a temporary exclusion zone to prevent their entry.
Law is in accordance with international practice: Chinese foreign ministry
The law was passed on Jan. 22 by the National People's Congress standing committee, with the statement that "all necessary measures, including the use of weapons" can be taken when the country's sovereignty is infringed upon by foreign organisations or individuals at sea.
The law also laid out the circumstances for the usage of different types of weapons, from hand-held to shipborne and airborne.
Addressing concerns, Hua Chunying, the spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said that the law is in accordance with international practices.
The bill comes seven years after China merged multiple civilian maritime law-enforcement agencies into a coast guard bureau.
China's coast guard is largely active in the East China Sea, which is controlled by Japan and in the South China Sea which the country claims in almost its entirety.
U.S. sends aircraft carrier group to South China Sea two days after China passes law
Shortly after the law was passed, a U.S. Navy group, led by the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, entered the South China Sea on Jan. 24 to promote "freedom of the seas."
Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo, commander of the group, said:
"With two-thirds of the world’s trade travelling through this very important region, it is vital that we maintain our presence and continue to promote the rules-based order which has allowed us all to prosper."
He added that it was "great" to be in the South China Sea to conduct routine operations, promote freedom of the seas and reassuring America's partners and allies.
China to hold military drills in South China Sea after complaining U.S. move is not conducive for peace
In response to the move, China complained on Jan. 25 that such a move by the U.S. to "flex its muscle" was not conducive for peace, according to Reuters.
This was followed by an announcement on Jan. 26 that China will be conducting military exercises in the South China Sea.
The drills will be held in the Gulf of Tonkin which is east of Vietnam, sometime during the period from Jan. 27 to Jan. 30. Entry into an area of the gulf has since been restricted.
Top photo by Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images