China flexes maritime muscle with bigger, tougher coast guard ships

Published February 28, 2024

BEIJING — The China Coast Guard is expanding its presence in the East and South China seas as well as in waters near Taiwan, deploying larger and more sophisticated vessels as it essentially acts as an extension of the Chinese navy.

The ramp-up reflects Chinese President Xi Jinping’s focus on Beijing’s maritime ambitions. Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines worry that the buildup could raise the risk of accidental clashes in these waters.

In a Sunday incident near Taiwan’s Kinmen Islands, a China Coast Guard ship told a nearby Taiwanese vessel over radio to state its port of origin, destination and reason for sailing the waters. A video released by the China Coast Guard showed four of its vessels at the site.

The Chinese ship that radioed the Taiwanese vessel bore the number 2202 and is an updated naval missile frigate with a full-load displacement of at least 2,000 tonnes, a Hong Kong news outlet reported. It is also believed to be equipped with machine guns.

Ship 2202 has long been active in waters near the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands — claimed by China as the Diaoyu — a leading naval expert said in a Monday report by the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Global Times.

By policing waters near Taiwan, the ship could provide an “overwhelming advantage” over the Taiwanese side, said the expert, a senior figure at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

The Kinmen Islands are just a few kilometers off the coast of the Chinese city of Xiamen. Cross-strait tensions have surged after a Chinese fishing boat capsized nearby on Feb. 14, which led two of the four on board to drown.

The fishing boat had entered Taiwanese-controlled waters without permission and came into contact with a Taiwanese coast guard vessel before capsizing. China condemned the incident, saying it did not recognize restrictions set by Taiwan and would step up patrols by its coast guard in nearby waters.

On Feb. 19, the China Coast Guard boarded and inspected a Taiwanese tourist boat near the Kinmen Islands. Three China Coast Guard vessels approached an island in Taiwan’s Matsu archipelago on Feb. 21, with one coming as close as about 10 km.

China has stepped up maritime activity as well near the Senkakus, in the East China Sea. China Coast Guard vessels in January began warning aircraft belonging to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in the area to leave, according to a Japanese security official.

The China Coast Guard has previously demanded that Japanese coast guard and SDF vessels leave Japan’s territorial waters by the Senkakus. It appears to now be making similar demands of traffic in Japanese airspace as well.



RELATED: Navy confirms ‘interference’ in West Philippine Sea… but by whom?

Published February 28, 2024
The Navy says it can’t say who’s messing around with its communications systems in the West Philippine Sea

The Philippine Navy made headlines on Tuesday, February 27, after its spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, Commodore Roy Trinidad, said in an interview that “interference (in) our electronic capabilities” during missions and rotations in the West Philippine Sea “has been going on for the past three or four years, maybe even earlier.”

“They have noted an increase in cyber interference, electronic interference, jamming, and stuff like that, not only for equipment of the ship but also for land-based communication equipment. This usually happens, or are noted during preparation stages for Rore [rotation and reprovisioning] missions. So yes, there has been observed activities to interfere with our internal equipment,” added Trinidad.

The Navy spokesperson had been asked if, like the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), gray ships in the West Philippine Sea had experienced systems interference by China. The PCG earlier said they suspected Beijing of blocking their AIS transmitters while at sea.

Trinidad’s full quote, based on a transcript of his interview, is as follows: “The activities of China in the West Philippine Sea has been going on for quite some time now. When it comes to interference on our electronic capabilities…. I have discussed this with the commander of Naval Forces west this morning, and it has been going on for the past three or four years, maybe even earlier.”

News headlines came swiftly: the Philippines was claiming that China wasn’t just allegedly meddling with the electronics of white ships in the West Philippine Sea, but with its gray ships too.



RELATED: Chinese navy’s presence in South China Sea is ‘worrisome’, says Philippine president

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers a joint statement during the visit of Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the Malacanang Palace, in Manila, Philippines, January 10, 2024. Ezra Acayan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights


Published February 28, 2024
MANILA, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said the Chinese navy’s presence in the South China Sea is “worrisome” but will not deter his country from defending its maritime territory and protecting its fishermen.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spotted the presence of Chinese navy vessels during a patrol mission by a vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) at the hotly contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea last week.
The BFAR vessel, which the PCG said was shadowed and blocked by Chinese coast guard ships, also distributed fuel to Filipino fishermen in the area.




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