China’s new unified coast guard agency has gone into operation, state media reported yesterday amid maritime disputes with its neighbors, and experts said more ships will be armed as a result.
The China Coast Guard integrates the functions of marine surveillance, the existing coast guard, which came under the police, fisheries law enforcement and customs’ anti-smuggling maritime police.
The divisions “that were not allowed to be equipped with weapons can be armed now,” Yang Mian (楊勉), a professor of international relations at the Communication University of China, was quoted as saying by the Global Times newspaper.
“The new agency will also make our law enforcement more powerful,” he said.
The agency will “have reasonable and legal law enforcement equipment” and “detect and rapidly handle in accordance with the law acts that harm China’s maritime rights and interests,” Zhang Junshe (張軍社), a military researcher, wrote in a commentary in the PLA Daily.
Tensions have been growing in Beijing’s island disputes with Tokyo and other neighbors.
Zhang said the new agency would deal with conflicts in the disputed waters according to Chinese law.
That “will ... show the international community that China has undisputable jurisdiction over the waters,” he said.
The China Coast Guard will have 11 squadrons and more than 16,000 personnel, according to various media reports.
Gary Li, an analyst with research firm IHS Maritime, said the fleet would give China “more stamina” for coast guard patrols in the disputed waters.
The move “will have significant impact on China’s territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas around the Senkaku/Diaoyu (釣魚) and the Spratly Islands (南沙群島) respectively,” he wrote in a research note.
Arthur Ding (丁樹範), a professor of international relations at National Chengchi University in Taipei, said China’s patrols in the South and East China Seas were likely to become “more frequent and more forceful.”
“As it is named the coast guard, [its ships] are likely to be authorised to carry light weapons so that they can enforce the law,” he said.
“Clampdowns on so-called illegal acts are likely to increase, with frictions with neighboring countries expected to rise,” he said.