CHINA is operating a secret navy around the hotly-contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, according to a maritime analyst.
Beijing’s maritime militia includes non-weaponised vessels which are playing an increasing role on claims in the disputed seas. Satellite imagery has shown the Chinese boats spend nearly all their time anchored and often in large groups, according to Foreign Policy. The groups have appeared as “highly unusual” as commercial fishing vessels would not usually operate in such close quarters.
Of the boats, Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and a fellow in the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Gregory Poling, claimed: “China is using hundreds of fishing vessels under the aegis of its publicly acknowledged maritime militia to assert claims and harass its neighbours in the Spratlys.”
Writing in Foreign Policy, he said: “No other convincing explanation has been offered for why so many fishing vessels are engaged for months at a time in activities that make little or no commercial sense, or why they are so intent on hiding their actions.”
The analyst added: “Frequent satellite imagery shows that the vessels spend nearly all of their time anchored, often in large clusters.
“This is true whether they are inside the lagoons at Subi and Mischief Reefs or loitering elsewhere in the Spratlys.