Defense News04/30/2012Dispute Simmers
Five Scenarios for Renewed China-Philippines ConflictTAIPEI — The standoff between China and the Philippines over Chinese fishing boatspoaching in the Scarborough Shoal that began April 8 appears to be easing. Butdefense analysts point to Beijing’s continued failure to ignore regional exclusive
economic zones (EEZs) and rein in competitive maritime enforcement agencies. A new report, issued April 23 by the International Crisis Group (ICG), blames China’sdisjointed and competitive maritime patrol agencies fighting over budgets and turf.The ICG report — titled “Stirring Up The South China Sea” — identifies four “dragons”
as the main culprits: Maritime Safety Administration, China Marine Surveillance (CMS),Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) and provincial government maritimeenforcement units operating from Guangdong and Hainan.
Part of the problem is transparency about how the overlapping agencies function, saidIan Storey, a specialist at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. “It is also
unclear what the lines of communication are between these various agencies and thePLA [People’s Liberation Army] and central government.” Each of the agencies sets its own agenda, said Carlyle Thayer, a professor at Universityof New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, “especially FLEC andCMS, both have been responsible for nearly all the major incidents in recent years.”
Thayer identified five potential scenarios that could play out in a future dispute betweenChina and the Philippines.
Chinese fishing boats continue to fish in the Philippines’ EEZ. In thisscenario, the Philippine Coast Guard attempts to arrest fishermen at Scarborough Shoal.
The fishermen display automatic weapons and call for assistance. Chinese surveillanceships intervene and move aggressively to force the Coast Guard vessel away. OneChinese fisherman fires at the Coast Guard vessel with an assault rifle; the Coast Guard
vessel fires warning shots. This is misinterpreted by one of the Chinese surveillanceships, which rams the Coast Guard vessel. The crews on both vessels engage in a brief firefight leading to fatalities before calm is restored.This scenario is both the “most likely and the most troubling,” said retired U.S. Navy
Adm. Walter Doran, former commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet. “I am sure the Chinese