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Establishing a national coast guard is a matter of urgency for China

By Luo Yuan Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-30 17:54:06

Recently, there have been discussions on whether China needs to set up armed forces for maritime law enforcement.

Some argue that China must absolutely refrain from law enforcement activities carried out by the US, Japan and South Korea, such as establishing a coast guard. They also advocate that all countries should adopt China's peaceful principles within its exclusive economic zone.

We should admire marine law enforcement personnel who run risks in protecting Chinese territories.

However, it is not necessary to risk their lives. Even though this so-called peaceful law enforcement is effective, is it possible for Western countries to emulate this model?

As some scholars have pointed out, though there is no military conflict in the South China Sea and East China Sea at present, a clash is possible, because all countries enforce their maritime laws.

China has to take precautions: Japan favors sneak attacks, and Vietnam and the Philippines are also ambitious. China must be aware of the danger and perfect its maritime law enforcement.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an exclusive economic zone can be peacefully used, but some countries like the US, which has not even signed the convention, will not abide by this rule.

The US has sent the Impeccable and other surveillance vessels to Chinese exclusive economic zones in recent years. The US will not stop doing so even if China reasons with it. A proposed administrative punishment against the US will lead nowhere. It is also likely that the US may resist any punishment with armed force.

The US claims that Article 5 of the Treaty of Security and Safeguard between Japan and the US is applicable to the Diaoyu Islands dispute.

Japanese right-wingers insist that the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force can intervene. Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines have been reinforcing their quasi-military construction. China's sincere wish for peace is of no use within such a context.

At present, China's marine law enforcement is too weak and scattered. China has administrative ships, while the Japan coast guard vessels can be equipped with 40-mm single cannons, 35-mm twin cannons or 20-mm multi-cannons.

China should strengthen its marine law enforcement as soon as possible, and establish its coast guard with quasi-military capability. Under such circumstances, China will not only gain enough space for maneuver, but also take the initiative in marine law enforcement.

I appreciate some scholars' peaceful proposals. However, the ruthless reality is that peace results from either a compromise by all parties, or the ceding of land and compensation by one side.

It is impossible for China to respond to armed law enforcement in a peaceful way.

There is potential danger if Chinese marine surveillance ships or fishery administration ships confront other countries' coast guard with quasi-military force. It is of great urgency that China establish a coast guard.

The author is a major general at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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