China’s Maritime Militia: Dominating the South China Sea
Dots Show Chinese Ships’ Movements in the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone
China’s territorial claim in the South China Sea has become a topic of global concern. Chinese ships, including both militia and coast guard vessels, patrol the disputed Spratly islets and occupy strategically important territories like Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal, Union Bank, and Subi Reef. These vessels, armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and high-velocity water cannons, project China’s power and intimidate neighboring countries.
China’s Militarized Fishing Boats: The Backbone of the Maritime Militia
China’s maritime militia, largely funded by the government, operates in tandem with the aggressive coast guard. These militarized fishing boats, manned by civilians with official jobs as commercial fishermen, assert China’s presence in the South China Sea. With reinforced steel hulls, they are capable of ramming smaller boats and swarming foreign outposts. While they claim to be fishing vessels, their primary role is to amplify China’s ambitions and help Beijing gain control over disputed areas.
China’s Gray Zone Tactics: Gaining Command over Disputed Areas
Using gray zone tactics, China quietly but effectively gains command over contested territories. From carving the Chinese character for “China” on hills near its borders to sailing routes that trace the character in the South China Sea, China leaves its mark on the disputed region. Beijing has already built military bases on Spratly reefs, and its fighter jets frequently confront American military planes in the air. The presence of Chinese military installations and vessels in the South China Sea poses a challenge to the United States and its allies in the region.
Raising Tensions and Impeding Maneuverability
China’s militarization of the South China Sea has significantly raised tensions with the United States. While the U.S. does not claim any territory in the waterway, it is obligated to defend the Philippines, the nation most at odds with China. The presence of Chinese military bases and vessels near Taiwan could hinder the ability of the U.S. and its allies to maneuver in case of a conflict. The Chinese fleet’s continuous presence in the South China Sea, combined with their persistent territorial claims, creates a challenging situation for other countries.
An Intimidation Campaign: Philippine Outpost at Second Thomas Shoal
China’s intimidation tactics are evident in its interactions with the Philippines. The Chinese coast guard repeatedly intervenes when Philippine vessels try to resupply marines stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, asserting their sovereignty over the disputed reef. Dangerous encounters, such as ship collisions and the use of water cannons, have occurred, leaving smaller Philippine boats at a disadvantage. Civilians, including Filipino fishermen, are also affected by China’s presence, as traditional fishing grounds become inaccessible due to Chinese blockades.
A Constant and Aggressive Presence: China’s Maritime Militia
China’s maritime militia maintains a constant, aggressive presence in the South China Sea. Satellite images reveal that hundreds of militia boats are observed daily in the region. These vessels, many of which are constructed by state-owned companies, are designed for confrontation and armed with an array of weaponry. The Chinese government’s funding and support keep the militia afloat, making it far larger than necessary for fishing purposes. This overwhelming presence poses a significant challenge to smaller, wooden fishing boats and even the Philippine coast guard’s fleet.
An Emboldened Coast Guard: Veering Towards a Military Stance
China’s coast guard, radiating out from its military bases in the Spratly reefs, has expanded its patrols in the South China Sea. Chinese ships have engaged in confrontations with boats from neighboring countries and fired water cannons as a show of force. In a display of unity with the maritime militia, Chinese coast guard ships and militia boats sailed in the same routing, forming the character “中” (China) in the waters off the coast of Vietnam. The Chinese coast guard’s actions demonstrate an increasingly militarized stance, further intensifying tensions in the region.
Read More of this Story at www.nytimes.com – 2023-11-16 20:36:17
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