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Taiwan needs to prepare for China's maritime militia threat: experts

ROC Central News Agency

06/14/2020 05:10 PM

Taipei, June 14 (CNA) Taiwan needs to be better prepared for offensives by China's state-supported maritime militia, which Beijing uses to further its political, economic and military goals in the region, Taiwanese security analysts said in a recent study.

China's maritime militia has been harassing or attacking vessels from other countries in the region, and Taiwan must take steps to counter the threat, Paul Huang (黃恩浩) and Hung Ming-te (洪銘德) wrote in a paper titled "China's maritime militia and the gray zone conflicts" published on June 5.

Huang and Hung, researchers with the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), said the use of this armed fishing militia is part of Beijing's "gray zone" tactics to defend its interests without having to wage a conventional war.

The tactic prevents the offending party from responding militarily, they said, citing two recent examples.

One was on March 30, when several Chinese fishing boats rammed the Japanese destroyer Shimakaze, and the other was on April 2, when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel sank a Vietnamese fishing boat with eight fishermen, the paper said.

In another case, on March 16, more than 10 Chinese fishing boats intentionally rammed a Taiwanese Coast Guard vessel in waters near Taiwan's Kinmen Islands, Huang and Hung said.

"Although it is difficult to prove that the ramming incident was carried out by Chinese maritime militia, and our country has yet to notice clear Chinese maritime militia movement in our surrounding waters, we cannot discount such a possibility in the future," the paper said.

To prepare for aggressive actions by Chinese maritime militia in the region, Taiwan should strengthen its interactions and cooperation with Coast Guard organizations in the region, especially with Japan, they suggested.

Taiwan should also set rules on the use of force when encountering maritime militia threats from other countries, and it needs to strengthen the asymmetric capabilities of its Navy and the equipment and law enforcement capabilities of its Coast Guard, Huang and Hung said.

"Most importantly, Taiwan should build more corvettes with high mobility and battle capabilities for its Navy and Coast Guard, without affecting major defense budget allocations, to respond to China's provocations using gray zone tactics," the paper said.

China has the biggest maritime militia of any country in the world, consisting of an estimated 370,000 non-motorized boats and 762,000 motorized vessels, Huang and Hung said, citing a 2018 report by Nguyen Khac Giang, a Vietnamese analyst at the Vietnam Institute for Economic and Policy Research.

According to Rand Corporation researchers Derek Grossman and Logan Ma, these irregular forces reside under the direct command and control of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and play an important role in "establishing a de facto Chinese operating presence in disputed areas."

Their operations are designed to "win without fighting" by "overwhelming the adversary with swarms of fishing vessels usually bolstered from the rear together with the Chinese Coast Guard and possibly PLA Navy ships," Grossman and Ma said in an article published on April 6.

(By Emerson Lim)


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