Forces of "ferocity" in the Bien Dong Sea (South China Sea)

A recent report by the US Department of Defense reaffirms that China is using maritime militias with large ships to harass the Bien Dong Sea - as part of Beijing's strategy to monopolize the waters.
September 05, 2020 | 12:50
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Chinese militia ships guarding the inner circle for the HaiYang Dizhi (Geological) 8 ship conducting an illegal survey at Vietnam's Tu Chinh-Phuc Tan beach, October 2019. Photo provided by fisherman on the thanhnien.

According to the annual report "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China" announced by the US Department of Defense, China's Southern War Zone is directly commanding many forces including missiles, navy ... even the armed police, which are primarily among the maritime police, and marine militias operating in the Bien Dong Sea.

These forces are frequently present in the area of the so-called "cow's tongue" claimed by Beijingover the Bien Dong Sea.

Mobilizing huge resources

The report states that China is mobilizing huge resources to support the modernization of its defense, including the implementation of the Military-Civil Fusion Strategy.

China's 1997 Defense Law allowed militias, including the militia to be able to "maintain public order". Thereby, the maritime militia are empowered by China to carry out their own duties, along with the maritime and naval landscape, in areas it claims.

According to the Chinese Defense White Paper in 2019, since 2012, the country has deployed 950,000 military troops and armed police, along with more than 1.4 million militias to participate in the activities. In addition, the Chinese militia is also trained to be ready to fight under the direction of the government.

According to the US Department of Defense, within the overall militia, China's marine militia is also armed. In the Bien Dong Sea, the Chinese maritime militia plays an important role in achieving the goals set by Beijing. Through this force, China wants to avoid being criticized for using "military force" and not cause wars, but still conducts harassment activities against some parties.

In fact, China's marine militia has played a key role in many missions in the Bien Dong Sea. A typical example was the obstruction of the USNS Impeccable in 2009, the incident at Scarborough Reef in 2012 when Chinese and Filipino forces conflicted, China maneuvering HaiYang oil rig 981infringed on Vietnamese sovereignty in 2014 ... In these incidents, the Chinese maritime militia is always starting harassments. In 2019, field images also showed that the militia ships escorted the Chinese survey ship HaiYang Dizhi (Geology) 8 infringing on Vietnamese sovereignty.

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The Chinese geological survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8.

Renting fishing boats for unlawful activities

Currently, a large number of Chinese marine militia ships have participated in joint training and support for the country's maritime and naval ships to cause instability in the Bien Dong Sea. These activities often shadow civilian missions such as defending China's sovereignty claims, surveillance, reconnaissance and protection of Chinese fishing ships. The central government of China provides budgetary for marine militias through commercial and civil society organizations in each locality.

According to a report by the US Department of Defense, Chinese marine militias often hire private ships. In addition, China has built a fleet of "state-owned" fishing vessels to serve marine militia activities. The government of Hainan province, bordering the Bien Dong Sea, once ordered the builidng of 84 large fishing ships to serve as marine militia. Not only large in size, these ships also reinforced the hull and added ammo storage. All 84 ships were handed over by Beijing to the Hainan province's maritime militia, together with budgets to organize operations in the Bien Dong Sea, especially the area around the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands belonging to Vietnam's sovereign right.

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The Chinese civilian fishing vessel (left) aggressively rushed into the middle of the Vietnamese wooden-shell fishing fleet in Tri Ton sea (Hoang Sa) in June 2014. Photo: thanhnien

Imposing game of a gray zone

In fact, besides the maritime militia, the maritime forces equipped powerful fire-armed ships, also "hid" under civilian activities to conduct disruptive activities in the Bien Dong Sea to serve Beijing's aims.

Dr. James R. Holland (a maritime strategist - US Naval War College) in an artile to the thanhnien once pointed out that for achieving the goal of illegal sovereignty in the Bien Dong Sea, Beijing plays some tricks of using many measures such as through trade, or forces called by itself as its law enforcements at sea, military force ...

"Beijing plays out its trick of forming a "marine militia " seeking some activities to disrupt the regular military and naval forces of other countries. At the same time, China's PLAN will be lying in ambush for other countries' reactions. If such deterrence is successful, Beijing need not send the military directly to the "hot spots" for direct confrontation, "said Dr. Holmes.

Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) program Mr. Gregory B. Poling at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS, USA), in responding to the thanhnien about challenges for the South China Sea, once asked the issue of China relies on artificial islands built illegally in the Truong Sa (Spratlys) to support an unprecedented scale deployment of marine militias to put pressure on parties in the Bien Dong Sea , especially in the areas around the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands.

"This is also the Chinese force harassing Vietnamese civilian ships," Mr. Poling emphasized.

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