Japan and the United Kingdom warned China not to abuse a contentious new law that allows its coast guard vessels to fire on foreign ships at their discretion in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
The law, which took effect Monday, was assailed Wednesday by both Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi and Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi during an online conference with their British counterparts, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace.
China's new Coast Guard Law allows the China Coast Guard to "take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea." It also allows coast guard personnel to demolish other countries' structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs and to board and inspect foreign vessels in waters claimed by China.
In their joint statement issued after the talks, the ministers expressed "serious concerns" about rising tension in regional seas. They urged China and other Asian states involved in territorial disputes with China "to exercise self-restraint and refrain from activities likely to raise tensions, in particular militarization and coercion."
The ministers also agreed to strengthen defense and security cooperation between Japan and the UK to ensure a "free and open Indo-Pacific" goal Japan has been fighting for along with the U.S., Australia and India to deter China.
"Japan is staying alert and paying close attention to its effect on us," said Motegi said in the online talks. "I believe the law should not be used in a way that violates international law."
Kishi said Japan "would like to share our strong concern with you (the UK)" about the Coast Guard Law. He welcomed the deployment this March to East Asia of a British carrier strike group led by the new Royal Navy aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, as part of Britain's growing commitment to the region.
Royal Navy Group commander Commodore Steve Moorehouse said the deployment will be the navy's largest peacetime task group in 25 years. It proves Britain's commitment to maintaining world security, or "a visible demonstration of global Britain."
"In practical terms, my strike group is now at very high readiness, meaning we are at five days' notice to deploy, if required, in response to global events and in defense of British interests," said Moorehouse last month.
The supercarrier's air wing on this maiden Asian deployment will consist of 14 Northrop Grumman F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing stealth fighters and four helicopters. Its surface escort will include four Type 45 destroyers, Type 23 frigates, a nuclear submarine, a combined fleet stores ship and a tanker.
This week, the Biden administration indicated its support for transforming the "Quadrilateral Security Dialogue," or Quad, involving Japan, the U.S., India and Australia into a formal Asian military alliance also including other countries outside Asia such as the UK. This proposed military pact is being called the Asian NATO.
The UK has also indicated its willingness to join the Asian NATO. Citing credible government sources, British media said the administration of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not objecting to the UK joining Quad.
Speaking at this week's online United States Institute for Peace forum, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said transforming Quad into a military alliance is a goal of the Biden administration.