In a bid to reassert its claim on the disputed waters of the South China Sea, China unveiled a law enforcement ship to patrol the disputed islands of the region Wednesday. Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia over the islands and reefs in the South China Sea.
The vessel “Sansha Zhi Fa 101” was handed over Wednesday to the local Sansha city administrative unit tasked with supervising hundreds of islands and reefs of the South China Sea, reported South China Morning Post.
Sansha Zhi Fa 1010, manufactured by Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group, is reportedly equipped with “specialized law enforcement equipment and a helicopter landing platform.”
Beijing created the Sansha administrative unit in 2012 to administer the over 250 islands and reefs in 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 commissioning of the vessel is the latest in the series of efforts by China to exert its monopoly over the disputed waters. Last week, Beijing stationed permanent rescue forces and maritime administrations on its artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.
Though China claims the deployment of a new flying squadron and maritime staff on the Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs were aimed at maritime traffic safety supervision. The move highlights Beijing’s resolve to strengthen its dominance over South China Sea affairs.
China’s move comes as senior Pentagon officials warned Tuesday that it was “only a matter of time” before a “major incident or accident” occurs in the Indo-Pacific. Assistant Secretary for 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 a pace unseen before.
Just after Ratner’s speech, Jung Pak, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for East Asia at the State Department, said China had stepped up its provocations against South China Sea claimants and other states lawfully operating in the region.
China had responded to the statements, calling Pak’s comments a “complete reversal of black and white.” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the ministry, 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.