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Beijing Warns of Security Threats in South China Sea

FILE - China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, right, sits before the start of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 4, 2015.

China has announced stiff penalties for people caught illegally fishing in Chinese waters, including those it describes as its sovereign areas in the South China Sea.

The country’s supreme court on Tuesday said fishermen illegally entering Chinese waters more than once in a year will be subject to fines and up to a year in jail. The court also laid out penalties for harvesting coral or giant clams.

Last month, a United Nations-backed court in The Hague ruled that China had no claim to the waters in the South China Sea, including a 200-mile economic zone in the Spratly Islands.

Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan has warned of offshore security threats saying China should prepare for a "people's war at sea" in an effort to safeguard national sovereignty.

Chang called for a "recognition of the seriousness of the national security situation, especially the threat from the sea," according to the Xinhua news agency.

He said the Chinese military, police and people should "prepare for mobilization to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity."

South China Sea Territorial Claims
South China Sea Territorial Claims

Japan, meanwhile, in a security assessment Tuesday, said Beijing risks triggering "unintended consequences" by its aggressive stance.

China has conducted an effort throughout the South China Sea in recent years, transforming reefs into artificial islands that can support military installations, ignoring competing claims in the region by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, as well as the Philippines.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that Beijing's territorial claims in the region have "no legal basis."

An estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year through the South China Sea, which is home to rich fishing grounds and a potentially vast wealth of oil, gas and other natural resources.