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Asean needs own laws to curb China in South China Sea, say experts

Samuel Chua FREE MALAYSIA TODAY Tue, March 16, 2021 9:48 PM

PETALING JAYA: Asean countries must come up with their own legislation to balance the “maritime power” if it is concerned about China’s hold on the South China Sea, said a think tank.

Collin Koh of S Rajaratnam School of International Studies said proper legislation will allow Asean countries to have their own coast guard law in direct response to China’s coast guard law.

“This would allow them to respond in any maritime contingencies reacting to China,” he said in a webinar titled “Defence and Security Forum on the Sulu and South China Seas”.

As of now, China claims 90% of the important waterway. Though this claim was invalidated by an international arbitration tribunal in 2016, China did not recognise the ruling.

Another speaker, Natalie Sambhi, founder and executive director of Verve Research said not all Asean countries might agree on the laws.

“But we can sit down and actually say look this is our approach in terms of coast guard and naval cooperation and we can have dialogues with Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam to compare and contrast what are the strengths, and what are the lessons learned so far,” she said.

In January, China passed its own law for the first time explicitly allowing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels, a move that could make the contested waters of the South China Sea even more choppy.

Aside from its maritime sovereignty disputes with several Southeast Asian countries over the South China Sea, China also has the same issue with Japan in the East China Sea.

It has sent its coast guard to chase away fishing vessels from other countries, sometimes resulting in the sinking of these vessels.


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