China’s new restrictions on fishing in disputed areas of the South China Sea were soundly condemned as “provocative and potentially dangerous” by Washington on Thursday.
The US is now discussing the issue with the leadership in Beijing.
“These regulations appear to apply to the maritime space within China’s so-called nine-dash line,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Answering a question about the new restrictions at a regular press briefing, she said: “The passing of these restrictions on other countries’ fishing activities in disputed portions of the South China Sea is a provocative and potentially dangerous act.”
“China has not offered any explanation or basis under international law for these extensive maritime claims,” she said.
“Our long-standing position has been that all concerned parties should avoid any unilateral action that raises tensions and undermines the prospects for a diplomatic or other peaceful resolution of differences,” she added.
Washington sources told the Taipei Times that the issue was creating new diplomatic tensions within the US-China relationship and that there was the potential for it to become much worse.
China has rejected claims to parts of the oil and gas-rich South China Sea by Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
The latest Chinese restrictions follow a move by Beijing in November last year to create an air defense identification zone in the area.
Without informing China, the US sent two B-52 bombers into the area after the zone was declared.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei has rejected the Chinese rules and said that it does not recognize Beijing’s right to order foreign fishing boats to seek approval before operating in the area.
“The Republic of China government does not recognize any unilateral move taken or statement issued by any country,” ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) said.
China has claimed the right to board, inspect and detain any foreign vessels that do not follow its rules — including boats that enter or stop in the area without permission.
The Mainland Affairs Council said the major island groups and waters of the region are the territory of the Republic of China.
As reported earlier in the Taipei Times, China’s move, which took effect this month, requires foreign fishermen to seek permission to operate within waters administered by Hainan Province.
The affected waters account for 2 million of the South China Sea’s 3.5 million square kilometers.
The moves by China have heightened concerns of a possible confrontation.