BEIJING — China is considering revisions to its maritime safety law which would make foreign submersibles travel on the surface and report their movements to authorities when in Chinese waters, state media said.
The draft revisions, reported by the official China News Service late on Tuesday (Feb 14), make no direct mention of the South China Sea.
“Foreign submersibles, passing though territorial waters of the People’s Republic of China, should travel on the surface, raise their national flag, and report to Chinese maritime management administrations,” the news service cited the draft revision as saying, without giving details.
The draft will also allow Chinese maritime authorities to stop foreign ships entering Chinese waters if the ships are judged to be a possible cause of harm to navigational safety and order, the China News Service said.
The report also said the revisions to the law were based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Chinese laws on the sea, adjacent areas and exclusive economic zones.
The revisions will “increase the basic system of managing foreign ships entering and exiting territorial waters, inoffensive passage, right of hot pursuit and expulsion”, it added.
China claims a large part of the South China Sea, and has been constructing artificial islands and boosting its military presence in the waterway. Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei also claim parts of the waters, that command strategic sea lanes and have rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits.
Beijing set off a dispute with Washington in December when a Chinese naval vessel took an American underwater drone in the disputed South China Sea, though it was later returned.
Beijing also has a separate dispute with Tokyo over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
Under UNCLOS, submarines should travel on the surface of the sea with their flags prominently displayed if they are entering foreign territorial waters, naval expert Colin Koh told TODAY.
“But the crux of matter of this Chinese plan would be how they define ‘territorial waters’. It’s necessary to await more details about the plan in order to understand the true implications,” said Dr Koh, a research fellow with S Rajaratnam School of International Studies. AGENCIES