China Deploying
Image Credit: Glen Belbeck

China Deploying "Military Garrison" to South China Sea?

0 Likes
49 comments

According to an update on the PRC’s Ministry of National Defense website (which cites a Chinese news source), China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) has apparently approved the formation and deployment of a military garrison in the recently created city of Sansha. If this is accurate, tensions in the South China Sea could rise yet again.

This latest move occurs after the State Council on June 21 turned Sansha into a prefecture-level city to administer more than 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs in the Spratly (Nansha), Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha), and the Xisha (Paracel) islands, sparking protests from the Philippines, which has overlapping claims with China in the area.

Beijing made the move as Vietnam, which is also involved in sovereignty disputes there, adopted a “law of the sea” that placed the Spratlys and Paracel islands under its jurisdiction. Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei are also involved in various territorial disputes over the island chains and surrounding waters.

In all, Sansha City will be responsible for 13 square kilometers of island area and 2 million square kilometers of water. Since 1959, China had only had a county-level administrative office to exercise sovereignty over the area.

Efforts were also launched by the Hainan provincial legislature earlier this month to prepare the terrain for the city’s first people’s congress, which analysts regard as a move to build the city’s political power base. The government seat will be located on Yongxing Island (also known as Woody Island) in the Paracel archipelago. The Sansha people’s congress will reportedly comprise 60 directly elected delegates, with a Standing Committee of fifteen members

The original news report, citing sources in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Guangzhou Military Command, said the division-level garrison command would fall under the PLA’s Hainan provincial sub-command and be responsible for the city’s national defense mobilization, military operations and reserves.

Under normal circumstances, prefecture-level cities are usually given army divisions consisting of at least 6,000 PLA personnel, though so far Chinese authorities have provided little information on the plan. Judging from activity in Hainan in recent years, we may see the garrison forces to possibly include the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and PLA Navy (PLAN).

An  airstrip was completed on Yongxing in 1990 that can accommodate transport and fighter aircraft, including Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30MKK, and in recent years fuel depots, four aircraft hangars, and naval docks long and deep enough for destroyers and frigates have been built or upgraded. The PLA is also believed to have deployed various signals intelligence (SIGINT) stations on Yongxing and surrounding islets.

Such preparatory work, which began in the late 1990s and picked up in the first decade of the 21st century, casts doubts over Chinese claims that the decision to create Sansha City was a result of Vietnam’s passage of the law of the sea bill last month. It also undermines Beijing’s argument that its recent behavior in the South China Sea was in response to increasing assertiveness by Vietnam and the Philippines.

The case can be made that the latest developments are part of a series of efforts complementing China’s extension plans for the South China Sea, which centers around the recently completed naval facility near Yulin on Hainan Island. Seen from this perspective, the deployment of a garrison to Sansha City could be an attempt to provide the Chinese military with forward deployment or possibly refueling capability.

No matter how one looks at it, such moves are by no means reactive. The time when China relied mostly on fishing boats to enforce its claims in the South China Sea could soon be over.

Comments
49
Dan
July 29, 2012 at 08:56

Are you presently living in a jungle, Vic? Beyond 12 nautical miles from your coastal line  is the International Waters not your territorial sea any more & ships (commercial or warships) from all countries in the world enjoy the right to pass through these waters unhinderedly-Freedom of Navigation in the international waters (the high seas are open to all states, whether coastal or land-locked." Article 87(1) (a) to (f)-UNCLOS).
The SCS is an international body of water not your own lake.Now,  you got it?

vic
July 28, 2012 at 01:15

@Dan
American naval vessels , packed with nuclear weapons as well as deadly bombs, from faraway land coming to Asian waters are not "innocent" by definition.

Dan
July 27, 2012 at 05:51

Vic,
FYI
Article17–Right of innocent passage
Subject to this Convention, ships of all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea (UNCLOS).
Territorial sea: 12 nautical miles maximally.
The SCS is an international body of water not your own pond, don't you know that?

Chinese
July 27, 2012 at 05:11

@ACT,
The story of Inner Mongolia resemble situation in Xinjiang. But even on your claimed 1635 or 1755, it's much older than any land claimed by US. 
Besides, few mongols in Inner Mongolia want to go independency, in Xinjiang, only small portion of Uighur murmur independency, regardless of around 30 other minorities reside there thousand years ahead of them, tell me in which sense SHOULD THEY CLAIMED THE LAND???? It's a fair? Tibet issue is a little tricky here, Tibet empire fight centuries with Tang Dynasty, even ocuppied Chang'an, the capital, unfortunately, Tibet Empire collapse before end of Tang dynasty, and after that NEVER REUNIT again in history. Many residential area of Kam and Amdo is once battle field between Tibet Empire and Tang dynasty. Territory claim will be very tricky here, besides, HH. Dalai Lama do not ask indepency, he want autonomous which is something he know for thousand years, in Qing dynasty, Chinese Emperor never interfere with TAR affair as it's well managed by HH Dalai Lama. Sovernity or Suzenity is just wordy do not exist in the dictionary of Chinese political philosophy.

Chinese
July 27, 2012 at 04:04

@ACT,
I know you know some proposal of historical reality, yes, from Han Dynasty, Chinese control over the area is not direct control as before, but indirect one, which was a political reality then. Chinese is not as bastard as western, to kill the once guest people and acquire the land back, if the people still loyalty to emperor, keep their kingdom and manage them as prehistorical emperor do, remember Chinese emperor at that time was viewed as KING OF KINGS, do not apply none exist concept of "colony" on those historical facts you can not fully understand. If you cleared this point, many historical facts can be easily understood.
For thousand years, the west boundry of Middle Kingdom is a place named "Liu Sha", verbally Flowing Sand, nowaday after checking the historical records and many findings in Takelamagan desert, this "Liu Sha" in fact is ancient name of Takelamagan desert, which is much smaller than today and once accessible by waterway. I think no minority in Xinjiang can tell you more on the land than Han Chinese do.
Many archeoligical findings  reveal the points in those ancient books and we know better how prehistorical Chinese emperor run the country. Yes, some idea resemble your strategy to sever  China into much smaller piece. I'm sorry US can not be the first one to be smart in this regard. Some diversity of Xinjiang was intentionly allocated by Chinese emperor.

Matt
July 26, 2012 at 16:55

Maybe you should research just what happens to Godfather types. Do you realize there has never been a Godfather that has affected US interests without ending up in a US prison or just dead. You basically accept defeat as soon as you accept Godfather ways. Whether Mexican Cartels, Communist Govts. or just dictators your chances of success while confronting US national security interests will be ZERO. But there are many who have whistled past the graveyard.

Dan
July 26, 2012 at 03:17

The ' problem' is this body of water being  the international waters &  not belonging to any country including China ! You can sail through it but can not claim sovereignty over it . ECS &SCS are the properties of  the world &  China must have known  this already?

Cam
July 26, 2012 at 03:00

 
@john chan,
The little Vietnamese guy could stand up and beat China like crap is not a myth at all. Look at your history book (don’t read those books written by the CCP). Asking millions of one-child families to sacrifice their only boys for sea grabbing ambition is not a right thing to do.

Vic
July 26, 2012 at 02:38

@matt
If your house is in Palawan, no problem. if your house is in the Spratly's, you run the risk of being evicted. You better check with Godfather.
 

Share your thoughts

Your Name
required
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment
required

Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief