Taiwan needs to be better prepared for offensives by China’s state-backed maritime militia, which Beijing uses to pursue its political, economic and military goals in the region, Taiwanese security analysts said in a study.
China’s maritime militia has been harassing or attacking vessels from other nations in the region, and Taiwan must take steps to counter the threat, researchers Paul Huang (黃恩浩) and Hung Ming-te (洪銘德) wrote in a paper, titled China’s maritime militia and the gray zone conflicts, on June 5.
Huang and Hung, who are with the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said the use of this armed fishing vessel militia is part of Beijing’s “gray zone” tactics to defend its interests without having to wage a conventional war.
This prevents the offended party from responding militarily, they said, citing recent incidents.
One occurred on March 30, when several Chinese fishing boats rammed the Japanese destroyer Shimakaze, and another on April 2, when a Chinese coast guard vessel sank a Vietnamese fishing boat with eight fishers onboard, the paper said.
On March 16, more than 10 Chinese fishing boats intentionally rammed a Taiwanese coast guard vessel in waters near Kinmen, Huang and Hung said.
“Although it is difficult to prove that the ramming incident was carried out by Chinese maritime militia, and the nation has yet to notice clear Chinese maritime militia movement in its surrounding waters, we cannot discount such a possibility in the future,” the paper said.
To prepare for aggressive actions by Chinese maritime militia in the region, Taiwan should boost its interactions and cooperation with coast guard administrations in the region, especially Japan’s, it said.
Taiwan should also define rules on the use of force when encountering maritime militia from other nations and bolster the asymmetric capabilities of the navy, as well as the equipment and law enforcement capabilities of the coast guard, the paper said.
“Most importantly, Taiwan should build more corvettes with high mobility and battle capabilities for its navy and coast guard, without affecting major defense budget allocations, to respond to China’s provocations using gray zone tactics,” it said.
China has the biggest maritime militia of any country in the world, consisting of an estimated 370,000 non-motorized boats and 762,000 motorized vessels, the paper said, citing a 2018 report by Nguyen Khac Giang, an analyst at the Vietnam Institute for Economic and Policy Research.
According to Rand Corp researchers Derek Grossman and Logan Ma, these irregular forces reside under the direct command and control of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and play an important role in “establishing a de facto Chinese operating presence in disputed areas.”
Their operations are designed to “win without fighting” by “overwhelming the adversary with swarms of fishing vessels usually bolstered from the rear together with the Chinese coast guard and possibly PLA Navy ships,” they said in an article published on April 6.
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