China set to expand maritime surveillance fleet

Beijing said it will be expanding its surveillance fleet in a big way to protect the country`s maritime rights.

Beijing: Amid a bitter row with Japan over
Diaoyu islands in East China Sea and some other neighbours
over claims in South China Sea, Beijing on Thursday said it will be
expanding its surveillance fleet in a big way to protect the
country`s maritime rights.

A new "inspection ship" equipped with advanced
communication and satellite navigations systems joined the
fleet under the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) on Tuesday
and 36 more will join it later, the state-run `China Daily`
quoted an official as saying.

These are comprised of seven vessels of 1,500 tonnes, 15
of 1,000 tonnes and the remainder in the 600-tonne category.

Zhong Dusen, captain of the 77-metre-long and
10-metre-wide ship, reported to be the fleet`s fastest, said
it can carry a crew of 43 and has a maximum sailing range of
5,000 nautical miles.

Li Lixin, Director of the South China Sea Branch under
the SOA, said at the launch ceremony that China is
strengthening its monitoring ability and will build more
surveillance ships.

The lack of ocean surveillance ships has hindered the
country`s ability to protect its maritime rights, an official

China, which has a navy with most advance warships and is
building its aircraft career now, embarked on the expansion of
sea surveillance ships in the midst of deepening maritime

Sea disputes between China and other countries have
surged in recent months.

Sino-Japanese relations have been strained since a
collision between two Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats and a
Chinese trawler on September 7 in waters off the
Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.

China has since sent several fishery administrative ships
to monitor the region but so far has not confronted the
Japanese Cost Guard vessels which patrolled the area. The
uninhabited islands are under the control of Japan.

In the South China Sea, Vietnam, Malaysia, the
Philippines and Brunei all have competing claims over some
islands along with China. Beijing is unhappy that the United
States is directly taking interest in calling for a just
settlement of the disputes and free navigation.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in July that
sovereignty issues in the South China Sea were a "diplomatic
priority" for the US and proposed dealing with them in the
international arena.

"The new ships (joining the fleet) can be interpreted as
China`s response to recent sea disputes," said Wang Hanling, a
maritime law specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social