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South China Sea thoughts?

Discussion in 'Geostrategic Issues' started by SpartanSG, Jul 14, 2012.

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  1. My2Cents

    My2Cents Active Member

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    China has veto power in the UN, so don't expect any action there.
     
  2. Ananda

    Ananda Well-Known Member

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    Military alliance is much further off on Asean psychs at this moment. However Diplomatic Alliance should be. Regardless what Philippines or Vietnam intentions to drill for Oil and Gas in South China Sea, I believe the intentions for most Asean members have one thing in common. No one (except China) wants one nation to dominate the South China Sea.

    Heard from some forum, that China wants to offer Archipelago Sea Lane in South China Sea if everyone else agree to let her hold sovereign claim to all South China Sea. This is the right being given to Archipelago nations to keep the sovereign rights to Archipelago water (above 12 mil), but with the conditions they have to open and give International Rights to cross specific lane within the water.

    China not archipelago nations thus do not have the rights to dominate one large part of International waters, like South China Sea. The question now, If China keep insists on that, and proclaim their sovereign claim with force. Do all Asean members will stay put,knowing one of the 'international' sea lane that very important for life being of much of Asean members now being taken by force ?
     
  3. SpartanSG

    SpartanSG New Member

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    You said China's setting up of Sansha City to administer the disputed areas is provocative earlier. The Philippines has also done something similar: Kalayaan. And this is not provocative?

    Kalayaan, Palawan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I'm not sure if you understand the importance of strengthening a country's claims in disputed territories. But, this is effectively undermining another country's claims. And if that is not considered provocative, than why be bothered by China naming it the Sansha province when the Philippines have called it the Kalayaan?

    As for you mention of war, did the local media in your country highlight that China's military has not been deployed to the disputed areas? The standoffs at Scarborough are by their paramilitary outfit (coastguard equivalent). If China really wanted to be provocative, they could have sent a destroyer, a few frigates and possibly an LPD with helos.

    Also, just to highlight something I had already pointed out earlier, this is all about mutual provocations:

    http://www.rsis.edu.sg/publications/Perspective/RSIS1572012.pdf

    Relevant bits stated by Sam Bateman:

    It cannot be called "tit-for-tat" if there is no mutual provocation.

    True. But if it goes to International Court of Justice, the UN Security Council will have no say. The thing is ICJ will not judge any issue unless the parties involved agree for it to arbitrate.

    1. Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys are disputed areas which are claimed by multiple states, including China, the Philippines, Vietnam, etc. Hence, all the claimants attempt to assert their sovereignty there. (Seriously, do I have to repeat this every few pages? Does people even know what this topic is about before they comment?)

    2. Not hearing about it does not mean it has not happened. Do you realistically expect a maritime enforcement personnel (Navy, Coastguard or whatever is the equivalent) to go to the press and say that they had harassed another country's fishermen? China is probably trying quite hard not to fan the nationalistic flames so it could easily spiral into social inrest. Just see what happened in China when 1 of the fishing boats was arrested by Japanese Coastguards in 2011. It was not pretty.


    As I said earlier, the most neutral and objective position on this issue that I have come across is that of Sam Bateman (1 of the latest commentary is linked above). For the countries involved in this dispute that are willing to get neutral arbitration, it helps to pay attention to what Sam Bateman is saying on this issue because:

    1. He does not belong to any of the claimant countries and thus is not coloured by nationalistic chest thumping issues.

    2. He is an expert on maritime law (especially UNCLOS).

    3. He has access to a lot more information on this issue than probably everyone on this board.

    If forummers are not interested in a neutral perspective, than don't be disappointed if the issue goes to arbitration and the nationalistic position gets taken apart. The ICJ judgement on the Sipadan-Ligitan dispute and the Pedra Branca dispute are recent examples. Those media that were busy doing nationalistic chest-thumping had exactly zero effect on the judge. And those that believed such media were hugely disappointed (to put it quite mildly).
     
  4. SpartanSG

    SpartanSG New Member

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    Personally, I do not think China will implement archipelagic sea lanes in the South China Sea simply because it is not in their interest to do so. Further, they have already stated repeatedly that freedom of navigation has never been an issue, or will their claims change this.

    I also do not see China being able to dominate the South China Sea simply because there are so many navies active in the area, including the US 7th Fleet. Recently, even the Indian Navy has been active in the area. Hence, it is hard to see how China can dominate the area in the near future.

    As for military alliance, the failure of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) makes it quite clear that a NATO equivalent arrangement does not work for Southeast Asia. The political systems amongst the ASEAN countries are so diverse (various types of democracies, Communist country, constitutional monarchy) and there are so many differences that there is currently insufficient common ground for a military alliance. And China is trying not to be the common ground to spark a military alliance against it.
     
  5. STURM

    STURM Well-Known Member

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    The failure of SEATO, happened a few decades ago, when the geo-political enviroment and the threat perceptions of regional countries was very different. Granted, ASEAN countries till remain politicaly divided on a number of key issues and the possibility of a 'defence alliance', which no country has shown interest in, remains extremely low. This is not to say however that in the coming decades, we might not see an 'alliance', comprising certain countries, who will be forced to take a common stand due to shared interests and threat perceptions.

    Amidst all this recent fuss about the Spratleys, it is often forgotten that the dispute has been around for decades but has only been making headlines on a constant basis in recent times. Malaysia for example first started laying claims to the 5 reefs/islands it currently occupies way back in 1980, when it launched a number of operations to occupy and expand its reefs/islands - as part of moves to strenghten its claims - some of which became almost completely submerged during high tide.

    To date, Malaysia has not been involved in any standoffs with Chinese shipping - trawlers, fisheries department, naval or otherwise. There have been some instances - which were reported in the Malaysian press and by Chinese bloggers who also released photos - of Chinese fisheries department boats and naval ships coming into very close proximity to areas occupied by Malaysia but which left without much fuss after the appearance of Malaysian naval ships and aircraft. The fact that Malaysian trawlers do not operate in this area and that Malaysian naval ships only operate within areas that are already occupied by Malaysia would indicate that for the time being at least, the chances of any 'unpleasentness' happening between both countries at sea is remote.

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvtwdbqCQko"]Inside Story - The world's most disputed waters - YouTube[/nomedia]


    http://xnuripilot.blogspot.com/2010/07/ops-tugupt-1.html

    http://xnuripilot.blogspot.com/2010/07/ops-terumbu-limaholiday-cruise.html

    http://xnuripilot.blogspot.com/2010/07/ops-terumbu-limashuttle-services.html
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2012
  6. STURM

    STURM Well-Known Member

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    And one would get the impression that it is trawlers from other countries that routinely go about their business in close proximity to areas occupied by other claimants, when it fact it is the other way around. If I recall correctly, the recent incident with the Philippines was sparked off due to the presence of Chinese ships, not the presence of Philippine ships in, say Johnson Reef South or Subi Reef. Which makes one wonder, why do Chinese trawlers intentionally take this course of action, knowing fully well that it will lead to ''complications''? Indeed there have been cases of Chinese fisherman being detained and ''harassed'' but why is that? Could it possibly have something to do with where they choose to operate in and that their government condones or encourages them to operate with the claimed EEZ of others to test reolve or to make a statement?

    SpartanSG has repeatedly stressed the point that provocations are done by all sides but as far as I'm concerned [and no I'm not fanning the nationalist drums here] there are different degrees or levels of provocations. How would China react if Vietnamese navy ships entered in close proximity to the Paracels because Vietnamese trawlers had been detained for entering the area or if the Phillipines declared a establishment of a new military command to safeguards its possessions, as opposed to just renaming something?

    And yes, the onus is on all sides to act responsibly but does one expect one side to just sit down passively and not react when another side takes bold actions that can result in increased tensions - and I'm not refering to the renaming of areas or the passing of laws or legislations to strengthen ones claims. If other claimants had resorted to doing some of what the Chinese have done to claimants and non-claimants, including an open clear cut harassment of a U.S. ship that saw the dropping of pieces of wood, trying to hook cables and coming to very close proximity of the ship, shells would probably have started flying already, as they did in January 1974 and in March 1988......

    This is already being done and it's working as certain countries are more dependent on the Chinese in terms of economics than others are. China has always maintained that it will not deal with other claimants on a collectively basis but individually, this off course is to China's advantage as it can use its greater diplomatic and economic clout.

    And the only one who can stop them might not be in a position to do so in the coming decades. No doubt there is a very wide technological gap separating PLAN and the USN, but the Chinese are catching up and will in the not too distant furure probably have more hulls in the water than the USN. And unlike the U.S., from a military perpective China only has to worry about its backyard, it has no need to be distracted by other parts of the world.

    And as far as China is concerned, why should they back down? The Chinese can claim that all this talk and expressions of concern by the West smacks of hyprocisy and double standards, as the area in question is a ''part of China'' and that in the past Western countries have resorted to various means to secure their interests in places they didn't own.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2012
  7. STURM

    STURM Well-Known Member

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    U.S. public support for regime change in Iraq was also next to nil but then came 9/11, and the Bush adminstration, through its actions and words, convinced a large segment of the U.S. poppulation that Saddam and his Bathists chums were somehow in league with Al Qaeda [never mind that the Al Qeda leadership hate secular Arab regimes just as much as the hated the 'West'] and had a hand in 9/11. U.S public support for action in the South China Sea could easily change, especially if an unexpected encounter at sea resulted in a USN vessel being shot at or if a skirmish involving the claimants led to the sea lanes being closed, with negative consenquences for the world economy..

    The U.S. does not want to get involved in a full scale shooting war or even a skirmish with the PRC but things were to get out of hand and America's interests were threatened or even if a non-NATO ally was directly threatened, it would have no choice. If it didn't act, it would a wrong signal to friends/allies in the region and would play a part in determining China's policy.

    Came across this video on the recent stand-off.

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R28-b-nNtR0&feature=related"]101 East - Standoff at Scarborough Shoal - YouTube[/nomedia]
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2012
  8. SpartanSG

    SpartanSG New Member

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    The difficulty of defence alliance is that it requires members to come to each other's aid. That's not exactly easy to achieve in a small or medium-sized democratic country (why should a small or medium-sized country come to the aid of another against a potentially really big country?)

    And trying to secure public support for this is probably an exercise in futility, particularly when there are different interests for different countries.

    There is also the issue of political stability. Would a successor administration opt out of the alliance? Or remain committed to it? What happens if there is a coup?

    I am not so sure that Malaysian trawlers don't operate there.

    But, there is an important point here about the lack of provocations between Malaysia and China. There is no tit-for-tat between these 2 countries despite their competing claims in the South China Sea. This is in stark contrast to the situation between China, Vietnam and the Philippines. But I suppose this point is lost on some forum members who only see China bullying other claimants and yet fail to see their own country's provocations.

    Can you show me a link about the proven oil reserves in the disputed area of South China Sea? I have only ever seen estimated reserves. The reserves are not proven because it has been largely an exercise in futility in trying to survey the area for reserves due to the dispute.

    It seems my previous posts went over your head?

    1. I did not mention naval war (read my previous posts properly). I said that China is exercising restrain by not deploying warships during stand-offs. They only deployed paramilitary ships. There is a difference, but I'm not sure you understand that.

    2. It seems the point about mutual provocations is lost on you? There is no such situation between Malaysia and China because there is no mutual provocation. As I have said in my previous posts, neutral observers have highlighted the situation of mutual provocations (tit-for-tat) that resulted in the current situation. But I suppose you choose to believe the reporting from your national media, which has obviously not reported any provocations from your country (for whatever reason).

    3. You said other claimants have arms buildup is evidence that there are provocations by China. As far as I can see, Malaysia is also modernising (build up if you will) its military, but I don't see any provocations there.

    4. You expect China (Big Brother) to "act nicely". Does this apply if other claimants are acting nastily?

    The economic life-blood of South Korea (in addition to Japan's) run through the South China Sea. Any attempt to strangle it could theoretically lead to a retaliation by cutting the sea lanes somewhere else to strangle China's economy (say the Malacca Straits or Indian Ocean).

    China isn't USSR. USSR and its allies economy are not linked to the economy. China's is. And China is currently the world's 2nd largest economy that provides a lot of manufactured goods to the rest of the world (including a vast majority of the world's consumer electronics such as the iPhone).

    All these economies are inter-twined and any conflict will be so costly that it will probably make the Great Depression look like child's play.

    I believe the Chinese article consider all the disputed areas a belonging to Hainan. Hence the impression that foreign fishing vessels went near to Hainan.

    The Philippines did indeed want ICJ to arbitrate. Personally, its just as well that didn't happen as I'm not so sure they had a really good case for all of their claims.

    That is an interesting assumption. Do you know how many submarines the PLA Navy have?
     
  9. SpartanSG

    SpartanSG New Member

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    Missed replying to this earlier.

    Are you implying the grounding of a PLA Navy frigate on Half Moon Shoal is a provocation? Based on reports, PLA Navy frigates have been conducting patrols there for years, but I didn't see protests from the other claimants about such patrols.
     
  10. SpartanSG

    SpartanSG New Member

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    That's a valid point. And this is how it is applied to territories that are inhabited. For uninhabited territories, it becomes more complex. Which is why there are multiple basis for claims of uninhabited territories (see my earlier post on historical basis, occupation basis & legal basis).

    Nonetheless, even disregarding the earlier imperial history that China uses to justify its claims in the South China Sea, it still officially filed the claims with UN in 1947. That's decades before the other claimants became countries (i.e., Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei). If China had sorted out the territorial sovereignty of the area at that time, or before the other claimants became independent, than there won't be such disputes now.

    And how would the US finance such a war?

    China certainly won't be buying US Treasury Bills if there is going to be war between the 2. And I don't see Europe being able to buy US T-bills at the volume that China is doing.
     
  11. My2Cents

    My2Cents Active Member

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    The area in dispute has been well surveyed. What has not been done is drilling test wells to determine the nature of the reservoir, if there actually is one. Until that is done the reservoirs are not ‘proven’. Much of the bigger threats going back and forth are due to various countries attempting to move drill rigs in do so.

    There is less than a 50% chance of a test well finding a usable reservoir (proven reserves), despite all the improvements in surveys. It is a HUGE improvement from 20 years ago when the odds were less than 1 in 6.
     
  12. STURM

    STURM Well-Known Member

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    They certainly do not operate in near any of the five reefs or islands or reefs that Malaysia occupies. Unlike trawlers from the Philippines, China or Vietnam, the area has never been a traditional fishing ground for Malaysian trawlers. Anyhow, the whole area is a security area and is off-limits, access to Layang-Layang [Swallow Point] for visitors/divers is by air.

    I was referring to the future, perhaps in 2-3 decades when the geo-political enviroment may be very different from now and when ASEAN ties will have reached a greater point of maturity and when members may be forced to make certain decision for common goals.

    The message by the current U.S. administration that the Asia Pacific region is an area ot the outmost importance for the U.S. and recent moves undertaken by the U.S. to strenghten its military presence in the region is very reassuring to ASEAN and other countries, though some might not publically say it. At one time, there were great fears that the U.S. might downscale it presence in the region, due to economic factors and other various reasons. The author Robert Fisk mentioned in an interview [let me know if you want the link] being told my senior Australian army officials some years ago, that there was talk about a future expansion of the Australian army due to fears that if thesituation in Afghanistan and Iraq went ratshit, the U.S. might downscale its military presence in the region.

    Well for a start it certainly doesn't want to but if things suddenly got worse, it would be left with little choice, especially if its key national interests came under threat.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2012
  13. STURM

    STURM Well-Known Member

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    I remember a few years ago when Japanese ships blocked Taiwanese protesters from entering the area, the PRC issued a strong warning to Japan. It really is confusing and not surprisingly, the only time Taiwan and the PRC see eye to eye is when both issue 'warnings' or dismiss actions taken by others.

    Other disputes that come to mind in the one involving Japan and Russia over the Kuriles and over Dokdo, between Japan and South Korea.

    I was reading about it in the local papers. It's some family, can't recall the name, who supposedly have 'owned' the island for generations.

    Some interesting videos. The first two I've posted before.

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R28-b-nNtR0"]101 East - Standoff at Scarborough Shoal - YouTube[/nomedia]


    [one of the speakers in the video above raises a very important point as to how if things were to rapidly get out of hand during a standoff, ship COs won't have the time to radio Beijing or Kuala Lumpur or Manila for instructions and will have to make fast decisions]

    Inside Story - The world's most disputed waters - YouTube[/nomedia]

    feature=related"]Trouble brewing in the South China Sea - Decoder - YouTube

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsaViQ2C0k8"]Asia's Arms Race - YouTube[/nomedia]


    [this video has footage of a Vietnamese ship ramming a Chinese ship]

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv55GZeme14"]Inside Story - Modernising China's military - YouTube[/nomedia]


    China's air defense exercise tests military hardware - YouTube

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjKR7PQ4TfQ"]Inside Story - Is an India-China arms race brewing? - YouTube[/nomedia]
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2012
  14. My2Cents

    My2Cents Active Member

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    Because to allow the ICJ to rule on the issue would be to admit that foreigners have the right to dictate limits on their behavior. I think it is likely that the Chinese would see that as a major loss of face.
     
  15. Ananda

    Ananda Well-Known Member

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    With China now increasingly engage with Japan over Senkaku-Diaoyou dispute, how far can China maintain this 'aggressive' claimant posture ? They (China) threaten trade war with Japan, well Japan simply close their business and will resulted with hundred of thousands unemployment in China and can drag further pressure to China job market that now already has pressure due to the slow down of export.

    China seems stretching too far this time, with Japan. Perhaps this time the Philippines and Vietnam can try to push their luck further more. Can China keep the aggressive move within two front ? Yes their Southern fleet still can outmatch whatever Philippines and Vietnam Navy can throw out in South China sea. However PLAN need all their Three main Fleet if even want to have chances against JMSDF.
     
  16. STURM

    STURM Well-Known Member

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    The whole point of the exercise is to increase political and diplomatic pressure on Japan, in the knowledge that Japan, like other countries, have no stomach/will for a fight and all have intensive trade links with China. This is not too say that China is itching for a fight, it is not, but it certainly is sabre rattling to see how much of an advantage it can get and how far it can push Japan.
     
  17. Ananda

    Ananda Well-Known Member

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    Off course it's Sturm. That's what I mean with Vietnam and Philippines try to take advantage to push their action in SCS to see the reaction of China. What I'm getting at, will China willing to put an aggressive face on two front, considering their diplomatic relations can be harmed and can cause more of her neighbors 'gang-up' against her.
     
  18. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The New York Times reported that on 9 May 2013, a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel fired on a Taiwanese fishing boat at 10:30 am, killing a fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, aged 65, on the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28. The incident took place 164 nautical miles southeast of Taiwan's southernmost tip, in waters in the overlapping exclusive economic zones of Taiwan and the Philippines. I understand that a total of 52 bullet holes were found on the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28. The late Mr. Hung Shih-cheng is also not the first Taiwanese fisherman to be killed. Another Taiwanese fishing boat named Man Chun Yi was also attacked by a Philippine vessel in 2006, causing the death of Chen An-lao, the 68-year-old captain, and injuries to his 62-year-old brother Chen Ming-te (see additional link 1 and link 2). The Philippine coast guard authorities maintain that the fishing boat was trying to ram its patrol boat, prompting the officers aboard to fire warning shots.

    On 10 May 2013, a Global Times editorial opinion notes the following:

    "...Most of the analysts from the Chinese mainland speculated that because the Philippines was awed by the might of the Chinese mainland, it had vented its anger on Taiwan to show its will and determination, improve its position in negotiations, and maintain domestic morale. Shooting a fishing boat and causing death in a disputed area is a very serious event on the South China Sea. Although the details remain unknown, it is generally known that the Philippines will face retaliation from China if it really takes this ruthless approach to Chinese fishermen. In regard to this case, Beijing's next step depends primarily on how officials in Taiwan react - whether they have the courage to lift their "concern" to "strong condemnation" and whether they wish for help from the mainland...

    The mainland needs to strike a balance between Ma's concerns and the interests of Chinese people. If it is confirmed the Philippine navy is behind the shooting, the mainland should show its stance by intensifying navy activities in the disputed water between the mainland and Philippines..."​

    Foreign Minister David Lin of Taiwan disputed the Philippine version of events at a news conference on 11 May 2013, saying that the Philippine government vessel had fired indiscriminately at the fishing boat, killing the 65-year-old fisherman. Further, in link 2 above, Hung Yu-jhih denied this claim and said his ship posed no threat since it is smaller and had no weapons on board. "When the bullets were fired at us, all we could do was hide in the cabin," said Hung. "My father was killed inside that cabin."

    President Ma Ying-jeou said on 11 May 2013 Taiwan would consider sanctions against the Philippines amid widespread public outrage at Manila over the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman. “We will definitely seek justice for our fisherman. We will not rule out the possibility of taking any kind of sanctions” against the Philippines, Ma said while inspecting a coastguard drill in central Taiwan. IMO, Taiwan-Philippines relations is going to take a natural down-turn this year, because of a Philippine Government, own goal (due to the actions of BFAR).
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2013
  19. db2646

    db2646 Banned Member

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    There is always two sides to an story. Based on what I have read, it is from the Taiwan side. What about from the Philippines side? Why is mainland China getting involved in this incident? Is it because it is Chinese against Filipino? Is mainland China trying to stir something so Taiwan will act more forcefully against the Philippines about this incident? How about Chinese fishermen poachings of endangered species inside Philippine seas/waters far from the disputed Spratlys? What are their reactions to those incidents?
     
  20. Todjaeger

    Todjaeger Potstirrer

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    For some reason I managed to read the same post and not come to the conclusion that the PRC was doing anything except to see how the incident is handled by Taiwan and the Philippines.

    As for there being two sides to the story, the NY Times article has reporting from both Taiwan and the Philippines. One thing there does appear (at present at least) some differences in terms of where the Taiwanese vessel was, with numbers ranging from 164 n miles up to 180 n miles from the closest point of Taiwan. Either way though, that still falls within the 200 n mile EEZ. Given that at present there is no agreement between the Philippines and Taiwan over who has jurisdiction, then unless the Taiwanese fishing vessels where within the 12 n mile limit of Philippine territorial waters, this should have been an area that the Philippine Coast Guard handled with care. The presence of more than 50 bullet holes in the fishing vessel suggests this was not the case.

    Taiwan has launched an investigation which will include examining the ship's data recorder which should either prove or disprove the claim by the Philippine Coast Guard that the fishing vessel was attempting to ram them. If it is determined that the fishing vessel did attempt to ram the Coast Guard vessel, then weapons fire from the Coast Guard vessel is justified. OTOH if it is determined that the fishing vessel did not attempt to ram the Coast Guard vessel, then things begin to look very badly for the Philippines. Normally if Country A encounters a foreign vessel fishing without permission in their EEZ, the Country A can board and seize the foreign vessel. What makes this situation a bit different (and quite different from the dispute about the Spratleys) is that the incident occurred within the EEZ of both Taiwan and the Philippines, given that the two countries have not reached an agreement on sharing or dividing the area subject to both claims. The Philippines (or at least it appears some within the Coast Guard) may not recognize the Taiwanese claim, but absent an agreement between both countries, there is international recognition of both claims.

    What this may lead to is either an agreement between the two countries on their mutual overlapping EEZ claims. OTOH it also may lead to patrols by Taiwanese Coast Guard and/or naval vessels, especially if Taiwanese fishing vessels are out and about. That would likely dissuade any boarding attempts or warning shots from Philippine vessels, simply because the Philippines cannot escalate the situation to the degree that Taiwan could.

    -Cheers