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Game of Thrones
China Vows To Harass Foreign Fishermen in South China Sea

Step by step, China is extending its control of disputed waters in the South China Sea. A new rule took effect this month that requires foreign fishermen operating in almost two thirds of the entire Sea, including areas claimed and controlled by neighboring countries, to identify themselves to the Chinese authorities. Officials in the Philippines and Vietnam are still chewing over this new rule, which is just the latest unwelcome and aggressive move in Beijing’s campaign to stake its claim on disputed ocean territory. Throughout the region a response to this campaign has become evident: new, bigger, better, and more powerful naval assets.


Countries from India in the west to the Philippines in the east are buying and building ships, submarines, and airplanes at a frantic pace, one-upping each other in a race to promote national pride and power and to protect ocean territory from aggressors. This week, for example, India took possession of its second aircraft carrier, the 40,000-ton INS Vikramaditya.

The increase in submarine fleets in the Asia-Pacific is particularly striking.¬†Singapore, for example, just purchased two of the most advanced submarines currently available: the German-made ThyssenKrupp Type 218SG, which is extraordinarily quiet, equipped with fuel-cell drive and lithium-ion batteries, and can stay underwater for four straight weeks. The rest of Southeast Asia isn’t far behind:

On Jan. 1, Vietnam received its first of six Russian Kilo-class submarines. The last one is expected to be delivered in 2016. Myanmar intends to create a submarine force by 2015. Thailand plans to include the purchase of submarines in its soon-to-be-announced 10 -year armed forces development proposal. Thai officers are already enrolled at submarine training schools in Germany and South Korea, two potential submarine suppliers.

Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia have submarine fleets and plan to procure more. Malaysia paid a Franco-Spanish consortium $1.1 billion for two submarines in 2007 and 2009. Indonesia expects to replace its two aging submarines and expand its fleet to 12 with submarines from South Korea and possibly Russia by 2020. Only the Philippines, among the big nations, has not acquired new submarines yet.

With China now promising to threaten any foreign fishermen operating in parts of the South China Sea that China considers its own, and no end in sight for the naval arms race sweeping the region, expect confrontations to escalate.

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  • gabrielsyme

    One of the nice things about submarines is that one can sink an obnoxious Chinese navy frigate, and then slip away. Likely to be completely deniable (and even unsuspected) by the guilty nation, unless I’m very wrong about China’s capacity to monitor these new submarines. Someone might want to clip China’s wings without necessarily committing to war. South Korea might want to do so in a manner that makes Japan look like the guilty party if they think they could get away with it.

    I suppose such a move would entirely depend on whether a country thinks they can get away with such a move. But let’s count the countries that have a potential incentive to launch such an attack: Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, India and potentially Singapore; and potentially Russia and the USA; basically anyone who wants to preserve their territorial claims in the South China Sea or isolate/punish China. That’s a lot of different nations.

    • f1b0nacc1

      While it is certainly possible (and to be pedantic, it is unlikely that we are talking about frigates – real naval vessels – but more likely cutters or other patrol vessels), it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Even patrol vessels have sufficient sonar to detect nearby subs, so unless the crews of these vessels were incredibly lax (possible, certainly), they would know that they were being stalked, and possibly by whom.

      • gabrielsyme

        I take your point about sonar detection and the likely targets. That said, I think this is the kind of thing that is quite possible, though somewhat risky. I personally doubt that Chinese patrol vessels, even if competent, would be able to identify an attacking submarine purely by sonar, if that sub was making any kind of effort to conceal itself.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Submarines have acoustic fingerprints which can be used to identify them. While I freely concede that the PLAN may not be completely capable of identifying an individual sub, it would very likely be able to identify the class of submarine, and hence the navy which it belonged to. In a courtroom, this wouldn’t be depositive, but it certainly is enough for the PRC to identify who to take revenge against.
          Consider that the propaganda impact of such an attack (remember, we are talking about an act of war) would be considerable…I rather doubt that anyone who wasn’t ready to go to war on a fairly immediate basis would undertake such an attack….

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I’m glad you finally posted a map of China’s outrageous and illegitimate territorial claims, even though China is a signatory of the “Law of the Sea Treaty” which limits oceanic claims. It’s a travesty that the incompetent Obama isn’t taking advantage of the Chinese Belligerence, to form an economic and military alliance to oppose China.

  • Boritz


  • S.C. Schwarz

    This is a glimpse of what a world without the US as a stabilizing influence would look like. Of course, at the moment, with this president, we aren’t much of an influence at all.

    • hai_nguyen

      Can we just focus on the matter at hand: Chinese criminal and lawless aggression that must be stopped now instead of this president or that president? It’s actually started when Nixon/Kissinger betrayed “our ally” South Vietnam and allowed China to invade strategic Paracel islands chain in 1974, Jimmy Carter stood silent when China took over some more Spratly islands or Reagan’s none-intervention when the “our treaty ally” Philippines lost their Mischief shoal and of course, after W. Bush redirected our navy to the Middle East… all the while, American businesses contributing to Chinese rise to be the biggest danger to world peace and prosperity. So, if you have any memory and/or understanding… your face has been slapped by everyone of your president during the past 40 years.

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