Beijing may revise maritime safety law

BEIJING • China is considering revisions to its maritime safety law which would make foreign submersibles travel on the surface and report their movements to the authorities when in China's waters.

China set off a dispute with the United States in December when a Chinese naval vessel took a US underwater drone in the disputed South China Sea, which China later returned.

The draft revisions, reported by the official China News Service late on Tuesday, 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.

The draft will also allow Chinese maritime authorities to stop foreign ships entering Chinese waters if they are judged to be a possible cause of harm to navigational safety and order, 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.

China has a separate dispute with Japan over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

Beijing has repeatedly said it is committed to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, and has been upset with the US military for carrying out freedom of navigation operations close to Chinese-controlled islands.

The news service said the revisions were based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and Chinese laws. 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.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'Beijing may revise maritime safety law'. Print Edition | Subscribe