Philippines files protest over China’s ‘threat of war’ coastguard law

MANILA — The Philippines foreign minister on Wednesday said a diplomatic protest had been filed over China’s passing of a law allowing its coastguard to open fire on foreign vessels, describing it as a “threat of war.”

China passed legislation on Friday allowing its coastguard to use “all necessary means” to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels, including demolishing other countries’ structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs.

“After reflection I fired a diplomatic protest,” Philippines’ foreign minister, Teodoro Locsin, said on Twitter.

“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; which, if unchallenged, is submission to it,” he added.

China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The law, which permits coastguard to board and inspect foreign vessels in waters China considers its own, could pose problems given the scope of Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China’s claim of 90% of the strategically important waterway was invalidated by an international arbitration tribunal in 2016, but it does not recognize that ruling.

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