After China passed a new coast guard law allowing it to shoot at vessels in territories claimed by the communist nation, the Philippines has threatened to order its navy to shoot back at any possible Chinese aggression.
Philippines Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr had vowed this week that any Chinese response would bring serious consequences, reported The Daily Telegraph.
"So far there has been no incident. If there is an incident, I can assure you there will be more than just a protest," Locsin told local media, after issuing a formal diplomatic protest against what he called a 'verbal threat of war' by Beijing.
"Initially I said, you make a law, a domestic law that's nobody's business, however, on reflection, you realise that this law can be applied to areas that they claim are theirs ... they will fire if there's resistance. That to me is a threat of war," he added.
Meanwhile, Japan is also bracing for an escalation of conflict around its islands in the East China Sea, reported The Daily Telegraph.
Beijing's 'open fire' law could "shake the order based on international law", said Japan's Defence Ministry.
Meanwhile, Beijing's embassy in Mla has attempted to deflect criticism and concern, by saying that the law is not aimed at any one country and conforms to international conventions.
"Many countries have enacted similar legislation. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Law of 2009 established the PCG as an armed and uniformed service. None of these laws has been seen as a threat of war," an embassy statement reads.
However, several Asian countries have disagreed with this argument.
The Daily Telegraph reported that US President Joe Biden has reassured Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that their mutual defence treaties include the Senkaku Islands' sovereignty.
Biden has also reassured the mostly Beijing-friendly Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that Washington supported its rights to much of the Scarborough Shoal and South China Sea and reaffirmed Washington's commitment to Mla under their Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT).
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered his navy this week to not participate in naval drills with the US and other Asian nations in the South China Sea.
"Firstly, it's not to antagonise China because China is watching us here and a lot of things could be done to us by the Chinese government if they are antagonised... I told Secretary Austin, we don't want anything - miscalculations or accidents - happening in the South China Sea because we are right smack in the centre if it happens," he said.
China has been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly in response to Beijing's concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions.
Beijing's rising assertiveness against counter claimants in the East and South Sea has resulted in unprecedented agreement across the Indo-Pacific.
Tokyo had lodged a protest against Beijing through multiple diplomatic channels earlier this month after Chinese coast guard ships intruded into Japan's territorial waters near the Senkakus, called Diaoyu in China, for the first time since the new law took effect.
According to the Japan Coast Guard, two Chinese coast guard ships intruded into Japanese waters near the uninhabited islands around 4:45 am. Following the intrusion, the Japanese government set up a special team at the prime minister's office to analyse the situation, the officials said as reported by Kyodo News.
( With inputs from ANI )
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