China is to beef up ifs ability to patrol the waters off its shores, according to state media. The People’s Daily, quoting an unnamed senior official, says the China Maritime Surveillance (CMS) force will increase its personnel numbers to 15,000 from the current 9,000 by 2020. The number of ships in its fleet is to increase to more than 520, up from the 350 in the build-up plan under the current five-year plan. The number of aircraft will be increased to 16 from nine by the end of the decade.
China says there is a growing need to protect what it calls its “maritime security” as there has been a sharp rise in intrusions by foreign vessels and planes into what it claims are its waters and airspace. In 2010, the CMS monitored intrusions by 1,303 foreign ships and 214 foreign planes compared with a combined 110 cases in 2007, the CMS official said.
The comments come against a background of continuing tensions within the 200 miles of territorial waters China claims, particularly in the resource-rich and much disputed waters of the South China Sea. Earlier this week, the CMS dispatched one of its largest and most modern patrol vessels, the Haixun-31, after Vietnam has conducted live fire exercises there.
The dispatch of the Haixun-31 patrol vessel into the South China Sea is blatant muscle flexing, despite its overt purpose of making a routine trip to Singapore for a six-day visit. The vessel, seen above sailing from Zhuhai on Wednesday, is one of the largest and most modern in the Maritime Safety Administration’s fleet. Its voyage comes two days after Vietnam staged a live-fire exercise in the much disputed waters, criticized by Beijing for being a show of force.
In a move that is unlikely to calm any neighboring anxieties, China says it is increasing the size of its fleet that patrols the seas around its shores. A new high-speed surveillance cutter was launched this week, with three dozen more ships to follow, according to state media. That will boost the size of the Marine Surveillance fleet, a paramilitary agency of the State Oceanic Administration, by more than a third, as best as this Bystander can tell. The picture above shows the new vessel at anchor at Guangzhou, home port of the Marine Surveillance flotillas covering the South China Sea; the East China Sea flotillas are based in Shanghai and those for the Bohai and Yellow Seas in Qingdao.
Xinhua says that China has fallen behind countries like Japan and South Korea in its ability to protect its maritime rights. Beijing and Tokyo locked horns in September over a Chinese trawler detained by the Japanese Coast Guard in disputed waters of the East China Sea. China has already increased the number of fisheries patrol boats there in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands that it claims as the Diaoyu Islands and off which lie rich fishing grounds and potentially richer undersea oil, gas and mineral deposits.
China also has maritime claims around the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea that are disputed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. These claims were prominent durning Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s trip to Vietnam, where he urged a “proper handling of the South China Sea issue”. The newly launched patrol ship, which will be the fastest in the fleet, a 77-meter, 1,290 ton cutter equipped with satellite technology, is headed for those waters. Hanoi will be looking on with interest bordering on concern. Washington will be watching this new watcher, too.