Beijing insists it has sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea with its claim overlapping with those from six other countries. Tensions could rise significantly after China passed its new Coast Guard Law on Friday.
This allows Chinese coastguard to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons when national sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdictions are being illegally infringed by foreign organisations or individuals at sea”.
The legislation gives the coast guard the power to demolish foreign built structures on reefs claimed by China.
It explains the circumstances in which different types of weaponry - handheld, shipborne or airborne - can be deployed.
Beijing regularly sends its coast guard to push foreign fishing ships away from the South China Sea, with several having been sunk in the process.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
The new law instructs Chinese vessels to "take all necessary measures" (Image: GETTY)
Beijing has been building military bases on South China Sea islands (Image: GETTY)
China also claims sovereignty over a number of islands in the East China Sea which are currently controlled by Japan.
The United States, and a number of other western powers, dispute Beijing’s claims and regularly send warships on “freedom of navigation”