South China Sea WAR: Philippines warned of brutal Beijing clashes with maritime militia

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The Philippines’ navy chief Giovanni Carlo Bacordo announced the country would be sending hundreds of militiamen to contested waters in the South China Sea to keep control over their territory. But experts have warned the new plan will increase the risk of encounters between non-military forces in the already fractious waters. The Philippines, among other Indo-Pacific nations, have recently reaffirmed their claims to the waters, with the US and India challenging China over their “bullying” claims of “sovereignty”.

Mr Bacordo announced more than 240 militiamen would be sent to the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands.

The numbers would come from local fishermen, who will be trained into seaborne units with the plan to counter aggressive Chinese fishing.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced there was no government budget for the militia training, and there was no timetable for their deployment.

It comes after last year saw at least 100 Chinese militia-occupied fishing boats swarm around the Thitu Island, which is owned by the Philippines.

But Chen Xiangmiao, associate researcher with the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, warned the newly-announced militia will likely lead to more unofficial clashes between China and the Philippines.

He said: “Between China and Vietnam, the conflicts between militias or other non-military forces … would probably increase.”

Collin Koh, research fellow from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, added the new plans were a reaction to aggressive Chinese expansion.

He added: “China uses the maritime militia to bolster claims in the disputed waters, and so does Vietnam despite them investing in building up their navies and maritime law enforcement agencies.

“It might be appropriate to see maritime militia as part of the ‘whole of nation’ or ‘whole of society’ approach in securing national maritime interests.”

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte recently reaffirmed his country’s claim to parts of the South China Sea.

In a speech in the United Nations general assembly, Mr Duterte referenced a 2016 ruling enshrining the Philippines claim to the waters, which has been ignored by the country since.

But the President took shots at Chinese expansion in his address, and said “the award is now part of international law” and that “we firmly reject attempts to undermine it.”

The speech marked a turnaround from previous relations, with the President in July claiming: “China is claiming it. We are claiming it. China has the arms. We do not have it. So, it’s as simple as that.”

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It also follows countries in the South China Sea rebuffing China’s aggressive control of the waters.

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the US against challenging Beijing over “sovereignty”, adding China “will fight and fight to the end, even if you are the number one superpower in the world.”

He then said: “Any actions that focus only on oneself and any efforts to engage in hegemony and bullying will simply not work not only will it not work, but it will be a dead end.”

China’s leader also attacked Washington saying “unilateralism, protectionism, and egoism will never work”.

The US has also joined India, Australia and Japan in conducting military drills in the South China Sea.

The ‘QUAD’ has been decried by Beijing, who claimed the four powers were “primitive” and would not affect change in the region.

The state run Global Times said: “So far, the QUAD mechanism is primitive. Any attempt to mobilise forces around China will fail.

“China needs to be vigilant, but to remain calm and confident. China is a positive force in the region. It is strong, but shows goodwill to others.

“China doesn’t act against the world.”

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