With each month, tensions in the South China Sea continue to grow as more Asian countries are starting to fight back against Chinese aggression in the area. Just this past week, there were three incidences that worked to cast a light on the region’s growing impatience over China’s claim to the entire South China Sea waterway.
The week’s tensions started when an Indonesian Naval vessel captured a Chinese Fishing boat that was operating illegally near the Natuna Islands, which falls within Indonesia’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. As the vessel was being towed to port, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel showed up and started ramming the fishing boat until it was freed from capture. The Indonesian government was upset because the aggression happened in waters that are clearly under the country’s control.
Just days later, the Japanese Navy was given permission to dock two destroyers and a submarine in the Subic Bay region of the Philippines. This happened one-day prior to United States and Philippines military personnel joining in schedule war games designed to show unity between strong allies. The Filipino government, which has been central to bringing formal complaints against China’s territory grabs in the region, is working to get support from both the US and Japan.
In more recent days, Vietnam had its Coast Guard seize a Chinese vessel near Bach Long Vi Island in the Gulf of Tonkin. The vessel looked like a standard fishing boat, but was actually carrying diesel fuel that the vessel’s captain claimed was intended for Chinese fishing boasts in the area.
This is a noticeable change in attitude as the Vietnamese Coast Guard routinely chases Chinese boats out of the country’s areas of control, but seldom goes so far as to seize them. There is little doubt these actions are a by-product of what is happening in the South China Sea.
With a formal international hearing related to the South China Sea scheduled for later this year, there could be a growing number of disputes in these waters as each country tries to reclaim that which they feel is legally theirs.