Another standoff is brewing in the South China Sea, after swarms of Chinese fishing boats and subversive Chinese militia in disguise arrived and parked themselves in the Union Banks.
The fact is that Union Banks – and Whitsun Reef, where 220 Chinese vessels initially congregated in early March – is well within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines. China is making a move from its playbook for additional maritime territory.
If the Philippines does not respond, it can expect to wave goodbye to this feature in the Union Banks, one located just 129km from its own strategically important Thitu Island.
When told to leave Whitsun Reef by the Philippine government, the Chinese Embassy in Manila haughtily responded that it is part of Chinese territory. “Chinese fishing vessels have been fishing in its adjacent waters for many years.
Recently, some Chinese fishing vessels take shelter near Niu’e Jiao [the Chinese name for Whitsun Reef] due to rough
sea conditions. It has been a normal practice for Chinese fishing vessels to take shelter under such circumstances.