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Maritime Militia in the South China Sea

China Using Fishing Fleets to Expand Maritime Claims: US Official

By Today Online, AFP

23 June 2016

China is using its fishing fleets with armed escorts to bolster maritime claims in disputed territory, a senior United States’ State Department official warned yesterday, calling China’s behaviour “disturbing”.

“I think it’s a disturbing trend to see Chinese fishing vessels accompanied by coast guard vessels, used in a way that appears to be an attempt to exert a claim that may not be legitimate,” said the US official via conference call to journalists in South-east Asia.

“I do think that it does point to an expanding presence of Chinese — sort of military and paramilitary forces — and used in a way that is provocative and potentially destabilising,” said the US official, who asked not to be named.

The comments came after Indonesian warships fired warning shots and detained a Chinese-flagged fishing boat and seven crew near Indonesia-ruled Natuna Islands in the South China Sea last week.

Indonesia South China Sea

In this photo released by the Indonesian Presidential Office, Indonesian President Joko Widodo stands on the bridge of navy warship KRI Imam Bonjol, as it sails on the waters of Natuna Islands, Indonesia, Thursday, June 23, 2016. It was the same warship that fired warning shots at Chinese fishing vessels and detained one of the vessels and its seven crew members. Widodo visited the Natuna islands in a move designed to send a message about the country’s commitment to protecting its sovereignty in the area at the edge of the South China Sea. (AP Photo/Agus Suparto, Indonesian Presidential Office)

Last week’s incident was only the latest in a series of skirmishes between the two countries since Jakarta launched a crackdown on illegal fishing in 2014.

In March Chinese coastguards rammed a Chinese boat detained near the Natunas and helped it escape as the Indonesians towed the vessel to shore.

And last month, the Indonesian navy opened fire on a Chinese trawler near the islands and seized the vessel.

Following last week’s confrontation, the commander of the Indonesian navy’s western fleet said the fishing vessel incursions were “structured”, indicating Beijing had “given its blessing”.

“China protested because it thinks this area is theirs,” said commander Achmad Taufiqoerrochman to reporters. “Actually the (fish) stealing is just a ruse to stake its claim.”

Related articles:

China’s Foreign Ministry on Indonesian navy vessels shooting Chinese fishing boats and fishermen: “This incident took place in waters that are Chinese fishermen’s traditional fishing grounds and where China and Indonesia have overlapping claims for maritime rights and interests.” http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/t1373402.shtml

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister says country has no overlapping claims in South China Sea with China: “Our position is clear that claims can only be made on the basis of international law. For Indonesia, we don’t have overlapping claims in any form in Indonesian waters with China,” http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/indonesias-foreign-minister-says-the-nation-has-no-overlapping-claims-in-the-south

Today Online’s report: http://www.todayonline.com/world/chinas-use-fishing-vessels-indonesian-waters-assert-claims-disturbing

Analyses and commentaries: https://seasresearch.wordpress.com/category/events-and-analyses/maritime-militia-in-the-south-china-sea/

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