Manila poised to form new paramilitary marine units to counter China’s ‘gray zone’ tactics in South China Sea
MANILA – A “gray zone” arms race is emerging in the South China Sea, where China’s rising use of para-military forces to assert its contested claims could soon be met by rival maritime militias from Southeast Asia.
Long outgunned and outspent by China, the Philippines is now moving to create its own militia sea forces, to be known as the Cafgu Active Auxiliary Service (CAAS), to protect its interests in adjacent waters including within its vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The military move, if approved, would come in response to China’s growing use of para-military forces, including the use of small vessels to systematically swarm contested islands and strategic features, to intrude ever deeper into Philippine-claimed waters.
In particular, China has recently used para-military forces to block supplies and construction material shipments from arriving at Thitu Island, where the Philippines maintains a token military presence and rudimentary airstrip it is seeking to upgrade.