People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia [PAFMM] Operations
The Maritime Militia fleet provides logistical service tasks for the Chinese military outposts and plays the role of eyes and ears, monitors and reports on the activities of the parties to the dispute, and conducts joint exercises with the military and law enforcement forces. Chinese militia fishing boats often harass the ships of other countries that are normally operating in the East China Sea, and follow them to monitor other countries' warships, maritime police ships and commercial ships.
As early as 1974, the "Battle of Xisha" had a record of using maritime militias to fight. The Chinese maritime militia made its first appearance in armed hostilities when it participated in the battle to recover the Paracel Islands from Vietnam in 1974.
PAFMM units have participated in manifold maritime incidents throughout the South and East China Seas, including to advance disputed sovereignty claims. Publicly-documented examples include China’s 1974 seizure of the Western Paracel Islands from Vietnam; 1978 swarming into the Senkaku Islands’ territorial sea; involvement in the occupation and development of Mischief Reef resulting in a 1995 incident with the Philippines; harassment of various Vietnamese government/survey vessels, including the Bin Minh and Viking; harassment of USNS Impeccable (2009) and Howard O. Lorenzen (2014); participation in the 2012 seizure of Scarborough Reef from the Philippines and 2014 blockade of Second Thomas Shoal; 2014 repulsion of Vietnamese vessels from disputed waters surrounding CNOOC’s HYSY-981 oil rig; large surge of ships near the Senkakus in 2016 and layered “cabbage-style” envelopment of the Philippines-claimed Sandy Cay shoal near Thitu Island, where China has sustained a presence of at least two PAFMM vessels since August 2017.
The units engaged in these incidents incorporate marine industry workers (e.g., fishermen) directly into China’s armed forces. While retaining day jobs, they are organized and trained in the PAFMM and often by China’s Navy, and activated on demand. Since 2015, starting in Sansha City in the Paracels, China has been developing more professionalized, militarized, wellpaid full-time units including military recruits, crewing 84 purpose-built vessels with mastmounted water cannons for spraying and reinforced steel hulls for ramming. Lacking fishing responsibilities, personnel train for peacetime and wartime contingencies, including the use of light arms, and deploy regularly to disputed South China Sea features even during fishing moratoria.
According to a Hong Kong 01 report 29 April 2019, China had deployed hundreds of fishing boats in the South China Sea, which have the role of communication and reconnaissance. In June this year, one Militia vessel crashed and sank a Philippine fishing boat in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, abandoned 22 Filipino fishermen, and collided with a Vietnamese fishing boat in the waters of the Huangsha Islands, etc.
An analysis article in the Asia Times pointed out that China has assembled dozens to hundreds of fishing boats in the past two years, frequently appearing near Zhongye Island in the South China Sea, describing the fishing boats as China's maritime militia. China uses fishing boats to monitor the Philippine garrison on Zhongye Island. The Asia Times described these fishing boats as the source of the recent controversy in the South China Sea.
The CCP used these "maritime militias" to perform missions, because the fishing boats these militias boarded were less likely to cause a response from the U.S. military. In several incidents involving the U.S., Vietnam, and the Philippines, the CCP’s fishing boats harassed them. They even hit other ships, blocked sea channels, and even participated in the capture of islands and reefs.
Over the years, militias have played an important role in a series of military operations and coercive incidents, including against the United States in 2009. In 2009, the Chinese maritime militia surrounded the U.S. Navy Survey Ship Immaculate, which was conducting military surveys outside China’s territorial waters. These Chinese militia trawlers cooperated with Chinese government ships to threaten to cut off the sonar towing array towed behind the U.S. Navy auxiliary ships in international waters in order to disrupt the operations of the U.S. Navy.
Harassment of normal operations conducted by the Environmental Protection Bureau, the standoff on Huangyan Island (Democracy Reef) in 2012, the standoff of the Offshore Oil-981 oil rig (the 2014 Sino-Vietnamese oil rig crisis) in 2014, and the large seas near Diaoyutai in 2016 Scale invasion.
On 6 June 2014, Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense newspaper The People’s Army stated that China was maintaining between 110 and 115 vessels around China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s (CNOOC) HYSY-981 oil rig. This included 35-40 coast guard vessels, 30 transport ships and tugboats, 35-40 “fishing vessels,” and four naval ships. These forces assembled to form what the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred to in English as a “cordon” around the oil rig, effectively preventing Vietnamese vessels from approaching the platform. These large numbers of maritime militia vessels train and assist the Chinese in performing tasks such as protecting maritime claims, surveillance and reconnaissance, fishery protection, logistics support, and search and rescue. The CCP government subsidizes various local and provincial commercial organizations to operate militia vessels to temporarily perform "official" tasks outside of their normal civilian commercial activities.
According to the National Defense Authorization Act of the 2000 Fiscal Year of the United States, the U.S. Department of Defense must submit a report on the CCP’s military power to Congress every year. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Defense’s "Chinese" Military Power Annual Report (hereinafter referred to as "Annual Report") pointed out that the C It is used for maritime law enforcement in an attempt to maximize the interests of “China” without reaching the threshold for triggering conflict; the 2018 “Annual Report” stated that the CCP’s maritime militia “plays an important role in compulsory law enforcement operations with the purpose of achieving the CCP’s political goals. without triggering armed conflict."
The maritime militia not only rents fishing boats from shipping companies or individual fishermen, the CCP has established a "state-owned" fishing fleet for the Hainan Provincial Maritime Militia near the South China Sea. The Hainan Provincial Government has built 84 large-scale militia fishing boats and strengthened the hull and ammunition storage. In 2016, these special large-scale militia fishing boats were delivered to the maritime militia. These maritime militias also usually go out to catch fish, and cooperate with the provincial military regions of the coastal provinces to form maritime militia units, equipped with light weapons, and conduct professional training with the Chinese Communist Navy. Usually, they organize the maritime militia and the Chinese military to conduct joint training exercises for the three services. It is to establish the maritime militia's reconnaissance and early warning outposts and joint operations frontline and other combat preparations.
In recent years, the CCP’s maritime militia has become a key focus on issues in the South China Sea. Traditionally, the United States has adopted different rules for military and non-military ships. Generally speaking, it will not respond militarily to fishing vessels. However, this year, US Secretary of Naval Operations Richardson Navy The Admiral, when meeting with the Chinese Navy Commander Shen Jinlong, declared that "the maritime police and maritime militia are regarded as the Chinese Navy" and "the U.S. Navy will not be coerced, and will continue to carry out routine and legal operations around the world. Guarantee the rights, freedom, and lawful use of sea and airspace by all countries.” In summary, in the future, the US will not only treat the CCP’s maritime police and maritime militia as "paramilitary forces," but even directly treat the maritime militia as a communist army.
The Philippine defense chief on 21 March 2021 demanded more than 200 Chinese vessels he said were manned by militias leave a South China Sea reef claimed by both Manila and Beijing. "We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement. He warned that the Philippines would uphold its sovereign rights. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin later tweeted that Manila had filed a diplomatic protest over the Chinese presence. Chinese Embassy officials did not immediately issue any comment.
Chinese fishing fleets have long been suspected of being utilized as maritime militias to help assert Beijing's territorial claims, although China has played down those claims. A Philippines government body that oversees the disputed area said the vessels were seen moored at Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls Julian Felipe, on March 7. The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea released pictures of the vessels, alleged to be manned by maritime military personnel, lying side by side in formation.
"Despite clear weather at the time, the Chinese vessels massed at the reef showed no actual fishing activities and had their full white lights turned on during night-time," the task force said in a statement. The presence of the boats was "a concern due to the possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to safety of navigation," it added.
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