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China on Thursday passed legislation to strengthen the power of its maritime safety authorities, state-run media reported, sparking fears that tensions between the Asian nation and other countries, including Japan, will escalate in the nearby waters.

As Beijing claims that the Senkaku Islands, administered by Tokyo, in the East China Sea are part of its territory, the amendment of the Maritime Traffic Safety Law could target Japanese vessels navigating around the uninhabited islets, called Diaoyu in China.

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