WASHINGTON - The Chinese navy is focused on war at sea, regularly intruding on the maritime rights of its neighbors in the East and South China Sea and challenging them under the rules of “what’s mine is mine and we’ll negotiate what’s yours,” a senior US Naval intelligence official said.
“They are taking control of maritime areas that have never been administered or controlled in the last 5,000 years by any regime called China,” said Capt. James Fanell, deputy chief of staff for intelligence and information operations at the US Pacific fleet headquarters in Hawaii.
He said China’s navy was using “civil proxy” maritime security ships to advance Beijing’s sovereignty claims.
“They now regularly challenge exclusive economic-zone resource rights that South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam once thought were guaranteed to them by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Fanell told a defense conference in San Diego last week.
He said China’s seizure last year of Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, just 115 miles off Zambales province in the Philippines was a clear example of Chinese aggression.
He said China also has eight military installations on seven reefs in the Spratly islands claimed by the Philippines.
Fanell described the Chinese navy as a very capable fighting force.
He said last year China sent seven surface action groups and the largest number of submarines into the Philippine Sea in China’s history for battle drills and command and control exercises.
“Make no mistake, the Chinese navy is focused on war at sea and sinking opposing fleet,” he said. “The expansion into blue waters is largely about countering the US Pacific Fleet.”
Fanell said all states in the region were concerned about a “hegemonic China” and as a result more welcoming of the US Navy. “We now have more places to send ships than we have ships to send them,” he said.
He said every morning he and his team spend up to an hour engaged in intelligence briefings reviewing developments in the Asia/Pacific region
“Every day, it’s about China. It’s about a China who is at the center of virtually every activity and dispute in the maritime domain in the East Asia region,” he said.
“We need China to act like a great nation and a responsible stakeholder. But that’s not the China I have watched everyday for the past decade,” he added.
The Center for New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, said in a similar assessment that China’s use of non-military maritime vessels was disrupting regional security in ways that could lead to conflict.