BEIJING - China said Thursday that it has told its neighbor Japan that the nation's new legislation that allows its coast guard to use weapons in claimed waters is "in accordance with international law and practice."
At their high-level consultation on maritime affairs on Wednesday, which senior bureaucrats of the two countries attended, China also asked Japan not to take actions that would complicate the situation in the nearby waters, according to the Foreign Ministry.
As Beijing claims that the Senkaku Islands, administered by Tokyo, in the East China Sea are part of its territory, the latest legislation would target Japanese vessels navigating around the uninhabited islets called Diaoyu in China.
The law permits China's coast guard to use weapons when foreign ships involved in illegal activities in waters claimed by the nation fail to obey orders, while letting it demolish buildings constructed in those areas by foreign organizations or individuals.
Despite China's insistence, many Japanese senior officials have expressed fears that the legislation, put into force on Monday, might be enforced in an arbitrary manner, which could trigger contingencies in the East China Sea.
China "must not manage" the legislation "in a way that is against international law," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference on Wednesday.
At their video meeting on maritime issues, Japan conveyed "strong concern" to China over the legislation and it "firmly urged" the neighboring country to exercise restraint in its actions, said Kato, the government's top spokesman.
Chinese ships have been frequently spotted in the so-called contiguous zone outside Japanese waters, with President Xi Jinping's leadership adopting a hard-line posture on the isles under its goal of making the nation a "maritime power."
Late last month, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and new U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed that Article 5 of the bilateral security treaty covers the Senkakus, meaning that the United States would defend Japan in the event of a conflict there.
Beijing has criticized the confirmation by the two leaders, arguing the islets are "China's inherent territory."