Little blue men: the maritime militias pushing China’s claims


China is using large numbers of irregular maritime militias, dubbed “little blue men”, to assert and expand its control over an increasingly large area of disputed and reclaimed islands and reefs in the strategically important South China Sea, the Pentagon says.

The militias, comprising hundreds of fishermen and motor boats mainly based on Hainan island, south of the mainland, have been involved in “buzzing” US navy ships and those of neighbouring countries with rival territorial claims.

By using ostensibly civilian craft and personnel, China is avoiding direct military-to-military confrontations and gaining an element of deniability, said Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant US defence secretary for east Asia, presenting a report on military security involving China.

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