More players are entering into the scene as South China Sea tensions continue to escalate. According to reports, Taiwan is now part of the power struggle while Japan is continuously preparing to deter Chinese aggression in the region. Is China pushing too many buttons?
China has been continuing to provoke other countries into making a move over the disputed region of the South China Sea following its breach of international waters. China has been accused of militarizing the region, deterring Filipino fishermen from entering certain waters and now even entering Indonesian waters.
According to RFA, things are taking a new turn after the Chinese coast guard sailed into Indonesia waters and far from the country’s mainland. The Chinese group retrieved Beijing’s fishing boat detained by Indonesia for fishing illegally in Indonesian waters. One Indonesian official called this out as a breach of the country’s sovereignty. Specifically, Indonesia said that the Chinese coast guard sailed through less than three miles (four kilometers) from the Natuna Islands. The region is within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the 12-nautical mile territorial limit of Indonesia.
Consequently, the growing tensions between China and other countries also prompted Taiwan’s further entry into the struggle. According to CNN, Taiwan is claiming that it has been occupying Aba, Taiping Island in the South China Sea for six decades now. Outgoing Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou spoke to the press on Wednesday, saying that Taiping Island “is entitled to an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles” which offers Taiwan special rights on the seabed including the marine resources. Nonetheless, the country is not alone in claiming territories across the South China Sea. Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have also been pushing for territorial rights.
China, consequently, is at the middle of the tensions as it has been laying claim to nearly all parts of the contested region. It has reportedly been setting up military infrastructure to which other countries, including the United States, oppose strongly.
“Like most countries we are opposed to militarization or military expansionism in the area,” added Bruce Linghu, deputy foreign minister of Taiwan. The official is concerned that Beijing’s further efforts in the region will lead to conflicts or confrontations.
Japan, on the other hand, will not sit by as China draws potential problems in the region. On Monday, it switch on a radar station in the East China Sea. This gives the country a permanent intelligence source post that is just near Taiwan and the contested group of islands. China, however, did not like the move.
“Until yesterday, there was no coastal observation unit west of the main Okinawa island. It was a vacuum we needed to fill,” Reuters quoted Daigo Shiomitsu, a Ground Self Defense Force lieutenant colonel in charge of the new base on Yonaguni.
“It means we can keep watch on territory surrounding Japan and respond to all situations, the official added. However, this did not register well with China.
“The Diaoyu Islands are China’s inherent territory. We are resolutely opposed to any provocative behavior by Japan aimed at Chinese territory,” China’s defense ministry said in a statement. “The activities of Chinese ships and aircraft in the relevant waters and airspace are completely appropriate and legal,” the statement read.