China launches ‘law enforcement’ ship to patrol disputed islands

To reassert its claim to the disputed waters of the South China Sea, China on Wednesday unveiled a law enforcement vessel to patrol the region’s disputed islands. Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia over the islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

The ship “Sansha Zhi Fa 101” was handed over on Wednesday to the Sansha City Local Management Unit, which is tasked with monitoring hundreds of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, the South China Morning Post reported.

Sansha Zhi Fa 1010, manufactured by Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group, is reportedly equipped with “specialized law enforcement equipment and a helipad.”

Beijing created the Sansha administrative entity in 2012 to manage the 250+ islands and reefs of the disputed Paracel Islands, Macclesfield Bank and the Spratly Islands. While Vietnam and Taiwan claim Paracels, Spratlys have been the bone of contention between China and neighbors like Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei for years.

The vessel’s entry into service is the latest in a series of efforts by China to assert its monopoly over the disputed waters. Last week, Beijing stationed permanent rescue workers and maritime authorities on its artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.

Although China claims the deployment of a new flying squadron and sea personnel on the Fiery Cross, the Subi and Mischief reefs were aimed at overseeing maritime safety. The move underscores Beijing’s determination to strengthen its dominance in South China Sea affairs.

China’s move comes as senior Pentagon officials warned on Tuesday that it was “only a matter of time” before a “major incident or accident” occurred in the Indo-Pacific. Deputy Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner told a think tank meeting that China’s “aggressive and irresponsible” behavior has escalated tensions with its neighbors in the region “at an unprecedented rate”.

Immediately after Ratner’s speech, Jung Pak, US assistant assistant secretary for East Asia at the State Department, said China had stepped up its provocations against South China Sea aspirants and other states legitimately operating in the region.

China had responded to the comments, calling Pak’s comments a “complete reversal of black and white.” Zhao Lijian, a ministry spokesman, accused the US of “running amok in the South China Sea” and said it was the “real threat” to peace and stability in the region.

Photo: AFP / TED ALJIBE China launches ‘law enforcement’ ship to patrol disputed islands

Fry Electronics Team

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