South China Sea tensions have escalated further as Indonesia just blew up 23 foreign fishing boats this Tuesday. Furthermore, relations between the claimants have reportedly deteriorated with China now sounding alarms after it switched on a lighthouse on one of its artificial islands in the disputed region.
Indonesia is taking a tougher stance when it comes to defending its maritime sovereignty as it makes a move on foreign fishing boats. According to the Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, the organization just sank 12 Vietnamese and 10 Malaysian boats that were operating illegally on international waters. The minister declared that the same fate awaits those who will do the same thing regardless from where they are.
“If there is an illegal fishing boat from America, we will also sink it,” The Wall Street Journal quoted Pudjiastuti. The decision came following calls from the country condemning Beijing for allegedly poaching.
China has been in the middle of political fire since it has started stepping up its efforts in the South China Sea region. The country claims territorial rights over the majority of the region which is linked to trillions worth of trade annually. Other claimants to the disputed region have also beefed up efforts in order to deter Chinese aggression.
“It’s become increasingly clear that Chinese incursion into neighboring countries’ waters, ostensibly for exploration of fisheries resources, is the new normal,” explained Richard Javad Heydarian, a security expert at De La Salle University in Manila.
“And clearly Malaysia, Indonesia and other historical fence-sitters have come to share the threat perceptions of more vocal countries like the Philippines and Vietnam,” he added.
Despite the opposition, China seems unfazed by the pressure as it just switched on a lighthouse on one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea. China’s transport ministry hosted a “completion ceremony” which meant the start of operations for the lighthouse. The lighthouse spans 55-metre (180-ft) high and stands on Subi Reef.
Xinhua reported (via Reuters) that the lighthouse “can provide efficient navigation services such as positioning reference, route guidance and navigation safety information to ships, which can improve navigation management and emergency response.” The tower emits white light at night.
“However, high traffic density, complex navigation condition, severe shortage in aids and response forces have combined to threaten navigation safety and hindered economic and social development in the region,” the news agency added.