China is Now Threatening to Arrest Foreigners in the South China Sea

Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP, File

China never stops escalating its attempts to assume control of territory that does not belong to China. It's behavior toward the Philippines has become increasingly aggressive over the past year and now China has instituted a policy to arrest anyone who disagrees. The new policy was announced last month.


Beijing has fleshed out the Chinese coastguard’s powers to detain foreigners suspected of illegally crossing borders, rolling out regulations on Wednesday that stipulate suspects can be held for up to 60 days without trial, amid rising tensions in the South China Sea.

While existing laws and regulations give coastguards the power to detain suspects, this is the first time a specific regulation has clarified the coastguard force’s law enforcement procedure for administrative detentions...

The release of the latest regulatory document, effective from June 15, coincided with a civilian mission from the Philippines that kicked off on Wednesday to assert Manila’s claims near the contested Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal.

I wrote about that civilian effort, dubbed Atin Ito - meaning this is ours, here. The new detention policy goes into effect this Saturday and already Manilla is seeing a surge in Chinese ships at sea.

China this week increased its number of vessels in the West Philippine Sea, Manila said, ahead of the start of Beijing’s policy on Saturday to detain foreign nationals it considers to be trespassing in its maritime territory.

Analysts warn China’s aggressive moves in the region, including its detention policy, could escalate into armed conflict as Beijing continues to push a strategy designed to provoke other nations “to be the first to fire”.

Philippine navy spokesman Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said on Tuesday that 146 Chinese vessels, including 22 warships, were detected this week in the West Philippine Sea – Manila’s term for the part of the South China Sea that falls within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. This was up from 125 vessels last week.


China did offer an exception to the new policy: They promised to allow food deliveries to a contested shoal so long as Manilla asked their permission in advance. The Philippines gave that an immediate thumbs down.

The Philippine National Security Council replied that the country will continue to maintain and supply its outposts in the South China Sea without seeking permission from any other country.

In a formal statement under the council's letterhead, national security adviser Eduardo Ano dismissed the suggestion as"absurd, ridiculous and unacceptable."...

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called the new rules "totally unacceptable" and said he will take all necessary measures to "protect citizens" and continue to"defend the country's territory."

Here's the full response:

The concern of course is that if China continues to ratchet up tensions, something could happen which can't be overlooked. China may indeed be angling to get the other side to shoot first but detaining Philippine fishermen risks an accident where someone is seriously hurt or killed. And because the US has a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines, we could be involved as well.


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