Acts of aggression by Chinese fishing boats continue in the South China Sea

Sailors point out an F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Aces” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41, on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) March 24 2022, while operating in the South China Sea. (Julia Brockman/US Navy)

MANILA – Chinese fishing vessels appear frequently in the South China Sea off the Philippines, apparently with a threatening purpose, a year after more than 200 such vessels reportedly massed in the waters off the country last March .

Ignoring the protests from the Philippine government, China repeated its provocative actions.

Southeast Asian diplomatic sources told the Yomiuri Shimbun in mid-March that Chinese fishing vessels were still coming and going intermittently in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

The vessels in question appear to be carrying out no real fishing activity.

The Philippine government announced on March 20 last year that it had found about 220 Chinese fishing vessels massed off the island of Palawan in the Philippine EEZ in the South China Sea. After that, he claimed the fishing boats had “maritime militia personnel” on board, mostly Chinese veterans, and said the boats violated the sovereign territory of the Philippines.

Manila has repeatedly protested to Beijing through diplomatic channels.

But there is no indication that the boats will stop entering the EEZ, as the Chinese side only gives flimsy explanations, such as the fact that the boats were gathering together to avoid bad weather.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China are developing a code of conduct to prevent conflict in the South China Sea. The ASEAN member Philippines hopes the code will regulate China’s behavior. However, at present, ASEAN and China have yet to reach an agreement on the extent to which the code will be implemented, and it is unclear when the code will be completed.

China is stepping up its aggressive actions in the South China Sea. In November last year, Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked the way of Philippine vessels, and in January and February this year, a Chinese navy vessel entered the Sulu Sea in the southern Philippines, near Malaysia.

On March 20, U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Adm. John Aquilino patrolled the South China Sea in a reconnaissance aircraft. He told The Associated Press that China had militarized three man-made islands it had built in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, saying “the accumulation of weapons is destabilizing the region”.

There is a widespread belief in the Philippines that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could further increase China’s powerful activities in the South China Sea.

Former Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said in a March 8 statement: “A successful Russian invasion of Ukraine would further encourage China to also use force to seize the Western Philippine Sea. in the Phillippines.

Lauro Baja, former undersecretary for foreign affairs, also pointed out in an online event: “What happened in Ukraine will give them the opportunity or the chance or whatever to do the same in Taiwan. “. He also warned of the possibility of a similar operation in the South China Sea.

The Philippine presidential election scheduled for May is also likely to influence China’s actions. In the election campaign, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has the highest approval rating, but the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos is generally seen as close to China. He expressed the view that he would not take seriously a 2016 ruling by an arbitral tribunal in The Hague that outright rejected China’s unilateral claim to sovereignty in the South China Sea.

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