China Upping Its Intimidation Game in the South China Sea
Despite the pandemic, China has this year increased its campaign of using its ships to claim most of the South China Sea as its own territory, including a shoal only 140 kilometers from Malaysia.
VANGUARD BANK, SOUTH CHINA SEA — During 2020, despite the pandemic, China has increased its campaign of using its ships to claim most of the South China Sea as its own territory, including a shoal only 140 kilometers from Malaysia.
Named Luconia Shoals, this submarine ridge lies 1,500 kilometers from China's southern island of Hainan.
The shoal is also inside Malaysia's Exclusive Economic Zone, meaning that China has no legal right to patrol the area.
However, Chinese coast guard ships are currently harassing oil and gas activity in the area, according to the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS.
The CSIS released tracking data showing that Chinese patrol ships have been increasing their aggressive patrolling in the region.
One important concern is that these ships are now also targeting Vanguard Bank, an oil and gas-rich shoal claimed by Vietnam.
The area had been quiet until Chinese vessels began persistent patrols in July, when Vietnam decided to cancel a drilling project in the area.
The CSIS says Beijing is using the persistent patrols in an effort to normalize its presence and thereby strengthen its claims of ownership.
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