China creates waves in naval show of force

Published: 30/06/2011 05:00


On any given day, up to a thousand ships sail into
Singapore’s harbor, arguably the busiest in Southeast Asia.

On any given day, up to a thousand ships sail into
Singapore’s harbor, arguably the busiest in Southeast Asia.

China’s maritime patrol ship Haixun-31

But on June 19, China’s maritime patrol ship, the Haixun-31, docked in Singapore
after sailing through the disputed Paracel and Spratlys archipelagos in the East
Sea (South China Sea), sending waves of anxieties throughout the region as far
afield as Japan and the United States, the leading naval power in the Pacific.

The visit of Haixun-31 did not come unnoticed as it took place amid the
acrimonious dispute between China and a number of Asian countries, including the
Philippines and Vietnam, over territorial claims in the East Sea.

The visit came as the Philippines deployed its flagship, the Rajah Humabon, to
protect the islands it has claimed in the Spratlys group from incursions by
Chinese vessels.

The Spratlys and the Paracels are claimed in part or entirely by China and one
or five other countries—the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The visit of Haixun-31 touched off a protest from Singapore, which has no claims
in the disputed waters, and which demanded a clarification from China of the
extent of its claims in the region. Singapore said China’s ambiguity was causing
international concern.

The foreign ministry said that while Singapore had no claims of its own, it was
a major trading nation whose interest could be affected by issues relating to
freedom of navigation in the area.

The Philippines and Vietnam have expressed alarm over the increasing
aggressiveness of Chinese incursions in areas claimed by Manila and Hanoi as
part of their sovereign territories, and interventions in their explorations in
the waters for oil and mineral resources.

Chinese subterfuge

Singapore was forced to protest not over the aggressive actions of China in the
East Sea but over the subterfuge with which the Chinese carried out the visit in
the guise of an innocuous, long-arranged port of call by a civilian ship.

The visit by the Haixun-31, which belongs to China’s Maritime Safety
Administration, annoyed Singapore over the fact that it took place amid rising
tensions among countries with territorial claims in the East Sea.

China has come under increasing international criticism over its willingness to
use force to pressure rival claimants in the East Sea to stop them from
exploration activities in their claimed areas.

Singapore has criticized China for the ambiguity of its claims which are marked
as nine dotted lines covering almost the entire East Sea. Independent experts
point out that it is this U-shaped line that the Singapore government wants
Beijing to clarify.

At a conference two weeks ago, Singapore’s former senior minister S. Jakamura
said China should clarify its “puzzling and disturbing” nine-dotted lines map of
the East Sea. He said the map had no apparent basis under the 1982 United
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Some academics say that according to maritime lawyers, the line is at odds with
Unclos for which China proclaims its adherence to freedom of navigation but has
not defined its claims under the UN convention.


When China’s Maritime Safety Administration requested a port of call, it
presented the request as a routine visit. It was supposed to be part of existing
technical exchanges on marine safety and environmental protection between the
two countries.

The visit turned out to be provocative when the ship sailed through disputed
waters in the Spratlys and Paracel archipelagos where it could have encountered
activities of the Philippines and Vietnam, which have denounced the Chinese
incursions in the United Nations.

The aggressive Chinese intentions were revealed by Chinese media representatives
embedded in the voyage.

They reported that the trip was to reinforce China’s sovereignty claims in the
East Sea and to keep watch on foreign oil rigs and ships “in Chinese waters.” A
reporter for China National Radio reported from the vessel as it set out from
Guangdong province on June 15 that the purpose of the journey was “to protect
China’s maritime rights and sovereignty.”

The next day, the People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party,
said the Haixun-31 had tasks “beside the usual inspections on routine navigation
routes.” They included “checks on oil rigs, stationary ships’ operations in
constructions and surveys, and sailors who are sailing close to Chinese waters.”

The report added: “The vessel will also conduct checks on foreign ships
navigating, anchored and operating in Chinese waters.”

Sensing the potential for armed clashes posed by this maritime mission, which
might encounter navigation activities and constructions in the East Sea,
Singapore issued the statement:

“We think it is in China’s own interests to clarify its claims in the SCS (South
China Sea) with more precision as the current ambiguity as to their extent has
caused serious concerns in the international maritime community.

“Singapore is not a claimant state and takes no position on the merits or
otherwise of the various claims in the SCS. But as a major trading nation,
Singapore has a critical interest in anything affecting freedom of navigation in
all international sea lanes, including those in the SCS.”

Amando Doronila (Inquirer)

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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