China vows to beef up maritime security

Updated: 2013-01-11 01:20

By Zhang Yunbi and Wang Qian (China Daily)

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China vowed on Thursday to beef up maritime patrols and oppose sovereignty infringement by Japan over territorial islands and waters.

Observers said Beijing should further bolster maritime governance to protect lawful rights and interests, and push the adversaries of relevant territorial disputes back to the table for a resolution through bilateral reconciliation.

Beijing will continue to carry out regular patrols over its territorial waters off China's Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea, Liu Cigui, director of the State Oceanic Administration, said at the administration's annual conference in Beijing on Thursday.

The year 2012 witnessed increased tension in the East China Sea and South China Sea from rival territorial claims.

Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China is still lagging behind regional maritime players in infrastructure, law enforcement capabilities, patrolling facilities and staff. The Chinese marine surveillance fleet rescued fishermen who were harassed by a Philippine warship in the waters off Huangyan Island in April last year.

Vessels and aircraft have patrolled the territorial waters off the Diaoyu Islands over the past four months after Japan made an illegal "purchase" of part of the islands in September.

"A larger budget and other supports will be dedicated to fishery administration, maritime surveillance and the coast guard to boost China's efforts to become a maritime power," Li Guoqiang said. Maritime security was highlighted in the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which emphasized that the country will become "a maritime power".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei also told reporters on Thursday that China's vessels and aircraft will continue regular missions to safeguard its sovereignty.

Yet the Japanese Ministry of Defense and Japan's coast guard have been using tougher measures against the Chinese surveillance aircraft and vessels that patrol around the Diaoyu Islands.

China's Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi blamed Japan's moves for further escalating tensions.

Tokyo is trying to intimidate China and undermine Beijing's determination, and that "may lead to nothing but a standoff", said Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies.

Japan has not reined in the looming crisis, Ruan said. In response, China released the standardized names as well as maritime base lines and reference points of the Diaoyu Islands and affiliated islets. In addition to patrols in the seas, China Marine Surveillance is upgrading infrastructure, such as surveillances ships and speedboats. A new office building is also ready for operation. Beijing should take initiatives in boosting maritime governance when challenged by neighboring countries, Li said.

However, "China's plan to build a maritime power does not necessarily mean that it is pursuing a course of maritime hegemony, and the plan does not mainly target territorial disputes, which fall under the scope of foreign policy," said Zhang Tuosheng, a researcher at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies.

China has seen its maritime interests and rights breached by some countries, which have also accused it of violating "freedom of navigation", Zhang Tuosheng said.

China is justified in protecting its lawful maritime rights and interests, Zhang said, and more room exists for international cooperation in the field of maritime ecology protection.

Li suggested that a national strategy for maritime jurisdiction be designed as soon as possible to clarify the rights, goals and tasks of China's administration.

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Xinhua contributed to this story.