MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese vessel that rammed and sank an anchored Filipino fishing boat near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea in June may likely be a part of maritime militia, according to analysts.
The US-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative gathered all publicly available information on “Yuemaobinyu 42212” and concluded that the vessel may be more than just a commercial fishing boat.
Twenty-two fishermen were left out in the open sea struggling for their lives after the Chinese vessel smashed their boat last June 9.
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The Chinese government later identified the boat involved as “Yuemaobinyu 42212” from Guangdong province.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that the boat was not a maritime militia but a Chinese trawler from Hong Kong.
Chinese militia vessels are usually stationary and not fishing. Their main purpose is to intimidate vessels of other claimants in the South China Sea.
It is under the command of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
The Department of National Defense said in a report to Congress last September that Chinese militia boats could be used for “asymmetric warfare of sea control and sea denial, such as swarming tactic and ramming of other claimants’ vessels in the area, enabling it to make advancements in the maritime region without causing tension in the area.”
Based on the AMTI’s study of the history and the limited automatic identification system (AIS) transmissions of the “Yuemaobinyu 42212,” it was concluded that the vessel was plausibly a part of Chinese maritime militia.
“Yuemaobinyu 42212 operates from a port known to house a maritime militia unit; it appears that under a previous name it was contracted for government-backed research on at least two (and likely more) occasions; and its AIS history is suspiciously incomplete, even accounting for the fact that it is equipped with a weak Class B transponder,” the AMTI said in its report released Wednesday.
The vessel owned by Liang Jin was presumed to be operating from Bohe port in Guangdong province, “where fishing vessels are conscripted for paramilitary exercises in preparation for maritime combat” according to Chinese public reports.
Further study also indicated that the vessel previously participated in research activities for the Chinese government.
While it cannot be proven that it serves as a maritime militia, the AMTI said “they do, however, strongly suggest that it does not operate solely as a commercial fishing ship, which raises the question of whether the collision with the Gem-Ver was intentional.” /je