A couple of news items caught my eye on the issue of China and its claims to the islands and waters of the South China Sea. First:
The People’s Liberation Army, China’s central military authority, has approved the deployment of a military garrison in the newly declared Sansha City in the sparsely populated West Philippine Sea, said a report posted on China’s Ministry of National Defense website.(Full story here).
China's announcement is just the latest in a series of recent actions that have expanded its physical presence in the vast disputed waters and defied condemnation around the region.
The report said that the military garrison will be “responsible for managing the city’s national defense mobilization, military reserves and military operations.”
The Chinese defense ministry likewise said that military troops to be sent to the newly established garrison will be under the dual leadership of Hainan province’s military sub-command and Sansha City’s civilian leaders.
China had envisioned Sansha City as administering the West Philippine Sea including the Spratly Islands.
The announcement came despite a diplomatic protest lodged by the Philippines against China over the establishment of Sansha City.
The Philippine protest said that “the extent of the jurisdiction of the city violates Philippine territorial sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc and infringes on Philippine sovereign rights over the waters and continental shelf of the West Philippine Sea.”
Aside from the Spratly Islands, Sansha City—which was established by the Chinese Cabinet last June 21—also claims political sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and Macclesfield Bank.
Portions of these territories are also being claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Second, in a poke to the Philippines' eye, figuratively speaking, China has sent a fleet of 30 fishing vessels to the contested Spratly Islands, including two government vessels for supplies and security. (See stories here and here).