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Maritime laws mulled amid diputes

2013-01-11 08:22 China Daily     Web Editor: Liu Xian comment

Legislation expected to help China settle territorial disputes over islands

China will accelerate work on long-awaited legislation on maritime affairs this year amid rising sea disputes with neighboring countries, a top maritime official said.

The State Oceanic Administration will speed up the drafting of maritime laws, including the long-awaited basic law on maritime affairs, which is widely expected to help China settle conflicts over sea disputes, Liu Cigui, chief of the national oceanic watchdog, said at a national conference on maritime work in Beijing on Thursday.

Liu vowed to stand firm on territorial integrity.

Liu's comments come as one of China's neighbors, Vietnam, enacted its own maritime law this month. The law describes China's Xisha Islands and Nansha Islands as being under Vietnam's sovereignty and within its jurisdiction.

Last year, sea disputes increased between China and its neighbors, including the row over the Diaoyu Islands, which has become a major diplomatic irritant in China-Japan relations.

Experts said a basic maritime law can help China compete with neighbors over territorial claims.

China is connected to eight countries by sea.

"Our oceanic rights are being challenged. It is of great urgency to protect our territory and settle boundary disputes with surrounding countries," Deng Zhonghua, director of the department of boundary and ocean affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said last month.

Deng said other issues, including a peaceful environment in international waters, Chinese rights in polar regions and disputes over Huangyan Island and the Diaoyu Islands, also pose serious challenges to China's territorial rights.

Many lawmakers have proposed to the National People's Congress, the top legislature, to start the legislation of a basic law on maritime affairs as soon as possible.

Deputies from the navy have collectively submitted motions for three consecutive years urging the legislature to speed up the legislation of a maritime law, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress said in response to lawmakers that it will do more research on the issue and start the legislation "when conditions are ripe".

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