South China Sea: Chinese Air Force carries out training

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America’s state department said it was worried the law could be used to “intimidate the PRC’s maritime neighbours”. Last month, China passed the Coast Guard Law which empowers forces to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organisations or individuals at sea”.

China has claimed a large part of the South China Sea as its own which has triggered territorial disputes.

The eastern superpower has maritime sovereignty disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and with several Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.

On Friday Ned Price, US state department spokesperson, said: “The US joins the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan and other countries in expressing concern with China’s recently enacted coast guard law.

“Allowing the coast guard to destroy other countries’ economic structures and to use force in defending China’s maritime claims in disputed areas, strongly implies this law could be used to intimidate the PRC’s maritime neighbours.”

Analysts have warned how the criticisms from America appear to highlight how US-China tensions have shown no sign of improving since President Joe Biden took office.

Last month, the US issued a warning to Beijing to stop intimidating Taiwan after Chinese warplanes flew into the island’s air defence zone on consecutive days.

The Chinese forces also simulated attacks on a nearby US aircraft carrier.

China claims sovereignty over its island neighbour the People’s Republic of China, a democracy of around 24 million people – despite the two nations having been governed separately for over seven decades.

Beijing claims ownership under its “One China” policy which demands there is only one sovereign state under the name China.

In January, China issued a stark warning to Taiwan that “independence means war”.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said at a press briefing that Taiwan was an inseparable part of China.

He said: “The military activities carried out by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Strait are necessary actions to address the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and to safeguard national sovereignty and security.”

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Mr Wu added: “We warn those ‘Taiwan independence’ elements: those who play with fire will burn themselves, and ‘Taiwan independence’ means war.”

Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s foreign minister, also said Tokyo was “seriously concerned” about Beijing’s new law because Chinese coast guard ships make daily incursions into the Senkaku in the East China Sea.

Commandant Takahiro Okushima, head of Japan’s coast guard, said he would not rule out the use of weapons under his policing powers.

He added: “With a feeling of tension, we’ll prepare the best we can.”

Alessio Patalano, East Asian warfare expert and author of Postwar Japan as a Seapower, previously told Express.co.uk that China’s threats should be taken seriously.

He said: “I do believe President Xi has offered no evidence to suggest he is not serious in his propositions.

“I also believe that with 2049 as a significant year in the history of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party.

“Therefore, unless we see a different narrative emerging over this decade in which a different arrangement across the Strait is acceptable to Beijing, one should take seriously the risk of increased action – political as well as military – to ensure that reunification is achieved within a timeframe to allow to celebrate the first 100 years of the PRC in time.”

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