China on Friday adopted a new law on deep sea exploration, state media said, the country’s latest move to cement its status as a seagoing power.
President Xi Jinping is reforming the military and investing in submarines and aircraft carriers, as China’s navy becomes more assertive in its territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
The new law will “protect the rightful interests of Chinese citizens and organisations in their search for resources and in deep sea surveys,” the official Xinhua news agency said after China’s top legislature passed the measure.
“Exploration and development should be peaceful and cooperative, in addition to protecting the maritime environment and safeguarding the common interests of mankind,” it added.
Chinese people and organisations would have to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which China is a signatory, the vice head of China’s State Oceanic Administration, Sun Shuxian, said at a briefing.
It is unclear how the law, which takes effect on May 1, and the convention would affect each other.
“Along with China’s rapid economic and social development, it is inevitable that Chinese people will head for the deep sea,” Di Yong, an official who worked on the law, said at the briefing, according to an online transcript.
China has been increasingly active in deep sea exploration, touting the exploits of its Jiaolong manned submersible vehicle.
The vehicle was used in 2010 to plant a national flag beneath the disputed South China Sea, which is increasingly a source of tension between Beijing, its regional neighbours and the United States.
Last year, China passed a national security law that covers deep sea assets.
It is also increasingly active in the Arctic and Antarctic, and has stressed its right to share in Arctic resources and conduct scientific research there.
(Reporting by Michael Martina)