21 May 2015
Para-naval forces, particularly Coast Guards, are increasingly active in the South China Sea when it comes to enforcing maritime rights. These so-called “white-hulled” fleets are more and more serving as proxies for naval forces, ratcheting down confrontations at sea. This may not last forever, however.
IMDEX Asia, the international maritime expo in Singapore this week, is one of Asia’s most important showcases for regional naval capabilities. However, while considerable attention is paid to the buildup of navies in and around the South China Sea, a lesser-known but equally critical story has been the growth of regional para-naval forces – that is, Coast Guards and other civil maritime services. These so-called “white hulls” have been increasingly used to enforce maritime rights – particularly Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) in these two seas – and patrols by such forces have been both more frequent and, in some cases, more aggressive.
In the case of Southeast Asia, local coast guards are being increasingly employed as proxies for regional navies when it comes to aggressive enforcement of sovereignty rights, particularly in the South China Sea. As such, coast guards are taking on a greater importance in regional security calculations. Chinese Coast Guard vessels have rammed Vietnamese and Philippine fishing boats, and have also tried to block Philippine vessels attempting to re-provision the BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded ship in the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands.
… Richard A. Bitzinger is Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Military Transformations Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Formerly with the RAND Corp. and the Defence Budget Project, he has been writing on defence industries and the global arms trade for more than 20 years. This is part of a series on the IMDEX Asia International Maritime Defence Exposition in Singapore.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 18/11/2015