Indo-Pacific nations resist PRC’s territorial encroachments

Indo-Pacific nations resist PRC’s territorial encroachments


Indo-Pacific nations continue to challenge the legitimacy of ongoing incursions by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) into their territories, the frequency of which has escalated in the past year. Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines, among others, have recently initiated diplomatic complaints against such intrusions.

Japan lodged official protests in mid-October 2021 after Chinese coast guard ships encroached on Japan’s territorial waters in the East China Sea near the Senkaku Islands, pictured, and refused to leave for several days, according to The Associated Press (AP).

The PRC’s “continuous attempt to change the status quo by force” in the East China Sea where Chinese coast guard vessels routinely violate Japan’s territorial waters despite Tokyo’s protests is intolerable, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told the AP. The PRC also claims the Senkakus, which it calls Diaoyu, which Japan has administered for decades.

“Against Chinese action to Senkaku Islands and other parts of the East China Sea … we have to demonstrate that the government of Japan is resolutely defending our territory with the greater number of Japanese Coast Guard vessels than that of China,” Kishi told CNN in mid-September 2021. Japan also protested in late September after Chinese coast guard vessels intruded in the area, the Daily Mail website reported.

In early October 2021, Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry lodged a “protest against the presence and activities of Chinese vessels, including a survey vessel, in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the coasts of Sabah and Sarawak,” according to a statement. The vessel was violating local laws and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the statement said.

“Malaysia’s consistent position and actions are based on international law, in defense of our sovereignty and sovereign rights in our waters,” the Foreign Ministry said, Reuters reported.

The survey ship Da Yang Hao, owned by the PRC’s Natural Resources Ministry, entered Malaysia’s EEZ in September, according to the Malaysiakini news website. The ship was allegedly shadowing a drilling ship sponsored by a Malaysian state-owned firm for oil exploration, Kyodo News reported.

The Malaysian complaints came soon after Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., pictured, launched diplomatic protests against Beijing in late September 2021 for the continuing presence of over 100 Chinese vessels in waters claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea, BenarNews reported.

Earlier in 2021, the Philippines launched daily protests against PRC incursions in Manila’s EEZ.

The PRC continues to intrude into the territories of many other countries and territories in the Indo-Pacific region, including India, Indonesia, Nepal and Taiwan, placing domestic pressure on leaders to defend national interests.

In October 2021, the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 10, for example, encroached upon Indonesia’s EEZ, according to tracking data. A Chinese coast guard vessel appeared to be escorting the ship near an oil and gas field where a submersible rig contracted by Indonesia’s exploration partners was drilling appraisal wells, BenarNews reported.

“It’s unlikely it [Haiyang Dizhi 10] was not conducting research activities, especially since they’ve been in and out of the area for a month. If you look at the pattern, they are likely to be active for a whole month,” Imam Prakoso, a researcher at the Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative, told BenarNews.

Although Indonesia did not lodge a diplomatic protest, President Joko Widodo told the nation’s Armed Forces to be ready to counter myriad threats, “including violations of sovereignty, theft of natural resources at sea, radicalism and terrorism, as well as cyber, biological threats,” BenarNews reported.