Saturday, 21 May 2016

China's "little blue" men in the South China Sea

      According to a Pentagon report China's fishing fleet in the East and South China Seas consists of nearly 21million fishermen and about 439,000 motor boats. They are based mostly on Hainan island as also in ports along the South China sea coast.
* Inserted on fishing boats are members of the Chinese naval militia, popularly known as the "little blue men". Many veteran Chinese naval personnel are serving as militiamen, disguised as fishermen. Such vessels are now regularly deployed in the South China Sea area.
* By using ostensibly civilian personnel and fishing boats, the Chinese are well placed to avoid direct military to military confrontations. In addition, the element of deniability is always available to the Chinese should any incident take place.
* US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for East Asia, Abraham Denmark in a report says that Chinese vessels attempt to establish a degree of control around disputed features in the SCS area and at the same time stay well below the threshold of conflict, but also do assert their claims.
* These Chinese tactics are designed to exploit the "grey zones" that exist in the US Navy's rules of engagement. US Navy rules are silent on how to handle such activity.
* For example: When USS Larsen passed close to an artificially created island on Subi Reef near the Spratly islands on a 'FoN' operation, Chinese Naval Destroyers stayed well away at a safe distance. However small Chinese fishing vessels were deliberately provocative, harassing the USS Larsen by crossing its bow and maneuvering around it. The US Navy had no plausible response ready.
* Chinese authorities are clearly miffed on reports of such activity. Yang Yujun, spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Defence said "such reports wantonly distort China's national defence policy and the legal activities in the East and South East China Sea areas [emphasis added]"           

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