China is brutally enforcing its claim to seas far to the south of its mainland, wreaking havoc with fishermen from the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, and other countries, who have used the waters for generations.
Journalists witnessed the harassment of Filipino fishermen by the Chinese coast guard. Link to the article in The Japan Times here.
"We barely have any catch so we'll probably need to stay two more weeks," said Alex del Campo, 41, who had already spent more than a week at sea.
A day earlier, del Campo and two other fishermen had made a daring bid to enter the shoal in their small boats, but were chased away by Chinese coast guard personnel in rigid-hulled inflatable vessels.
"We are defenseless because they are armed and there was just one fisherman in each of our three boats," del Campo said. "If they ram and sink our boats, who will save us?"
The New York Times reports that China has unilaterally declared it owns the South China Sea, including waters just off the coast of many other countries.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, some of it thousands of miles from the mainland and in waters surrounding Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines. In the past decade or so, China has asserted ever greater control over these waters, using two island chains called the Paracels and the Spratlys to expand its military footprint by building and fortifying outposts and airstrips.
Legals experts are clear that China has no rightful claim to these waters. The Japan Times says,
Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China helped negotiate, countries have jurisdiction over the natural resources within about 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) of their shore.
China, which claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, snatched control of Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012. Since then, it has deployed coast guard and other vessels to block or restrict access to a fishing ground that has been tapped by generations of Filipinos.
China is so aggressive in asserting its "nine dash line" (so-named for a dashed line drawn by China on a 1946 map extending its maritime territory far to the south), it may have even had it subtly inserted into the hit movie Barbie.