It’s been a relatively quiet few months in the waters surrounding China, but things may be heating up again. Chinese ships have been violently ramming Filippino vessels near the hotly disputed Scarborough Shoal, according to Manila. The Diplomat has the story:
In a statement posted to the website of the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, the DFA said it had submitted two protest notes to the Chinese Embassy in Manila “in connection with recent incidents in the Philippines’ Bajo de Masinloc” (the Philippine name for the Scarborough Shoal).[…] the Philippines claimed that three Philippine fishing vessels (the OG Barbie, the Ocean Glory 2, and theAna Marie) “were intentionally rammed by Chinese Coast Guard Vessel 3412” on January 29, “causing damage to the vessels and endangering the lives and safety of the Filipino fishermen on board.” Manila claims that its fishermen “have been routinely, continuously, peacefully and sustainably fishing” in the Scarborough Shoal and should not prevented from continuing to do so. According to Reuters, Philippine coast guard official have described this incident as the most serious confrontation yet between Philippine fishing vessels and the Chinese coast guard.
This return to form for China is not altogether unexpected. Towards the end of 2014, Beijing and Tokyo took major steps to de-escalate their dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and China adopted a less aggressive diplomatic stance on its territorial claims. Ever since, there has been a dramatic reduction in reports of the ramming and menacing maneuvers that both China’s vessels and its neighbors’ have undertaken repeatedly over the past two years. But as we wrote at the time, it would be a mistake to read those events as a sign that China is giving up on its ambitious territorial aspirations. The dispute over territory in Asian waters won’t be resolved so easily.