China's maritime militia threat

The world continues to have concerns about tensions in the South China Sea and East China Sea, especially the risk that an incident between two or more vessels at sea could unintentionally spiral into war. While many vessels transiting these waters are warships, coast guard cutters and cargo ships, most are fishing boats whose crews are earning a living.

Over the past decade, however, several questionable incidents have involved fishing boats from one of those nations: China. These include five Chinese vessels surrounding the USNS Impeccable in 2009, a stand-off between the Philippines and China at Scarborough Shoal in 2012, a Vietnam-China stand-off involving an oil rig in 2014, and the mass convergence in 2016 of 230 Chinese fishing boats around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Is this coincidental or is there a root source?

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'China's maritime militia threat'. Subscribe