The South China Sea is reaching boiling point. Beijing has told its Coast Guard to shoot at any vessel inside its arbitrarily declared ‘nine-dash line’ borders. Now the Philippines says its navy will shoot back. Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr this week vowed any response would bring serious consequences.

“So far there has been no incident. If there is an incident, I can assure you there will be more than just a protest,” Mr Locsin told local media. He was commenting after issuing a formal diplomatic protest against what he called a “verbal threat of war”. “Initially I said, you make a law, a domestic law that’s nobody’s business, however, on reflection, you realise that this law can be applied to areas that they claim are theirs … they will fire if there’s resistance. That to me is a threat of war,” he said.

Beijing’s embassy in Manila has attempted to deflect criticism and concern. But the law speaks for itself. It orders China’s navy and 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 organisations or individuals at sea”.

The Manila embassy says the law isn’t aimed at any one country. It says it conforms to international conventions. “Many countries have enacted similar legislation. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Law of 2009 established the PCG as an armed and uniformed service. None of these laws has been seen as a threat of war,” an embassy statement reads. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines disagree.

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