Quartet leaders pledge ‘real benefits’ for Indo-Pacific countries roll out Analysts say the maritime surveillance program is its biggest move yet against China.
The Quartet – an informal coalition of Japan, the United States, India and Australia – said the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Marine Domain Awareness (IPMDA) will help Pacific island and Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean nations track illegal fishing and in real-time in their waters other illegal activities.Although the Quartet did not name China, the initiative aims to address longstanding concerns by countries in the region about unauthorized fishing by Chinese vessels in their exclusive economic zones and violated Conducted by Chinese maritime militia vessels in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
Quad did not provide details of the initiative, but an unnamed US official told the Financial Times that the group plans to fund commercial satellite tracking services to provide maritime intelligence to Indo-Pacific nations for free.
By monitoring radio frequencies and radar signals, the initiative will also help countries track ships even as they try to avoid detection by turning off their transponders, known as automatic information systems (AIS). This intelligence will then be shared across an existing network of regional surveillance centres located in India, Singapore, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
Greg Poling, a Southeast Asia researcher at the US Center for Strategic and International Studies, described IPMDA as “ambitious” and said it “could be of great help to developing countries in the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and Pacific islands.” “This effort could significantly reduce costs and improve the ability to monitor illegal fishing and the behavior of Chinese maritime militias,” he said.
China’s ocean-going fleet of an estimated 3,000 ships is by far the largest in the world.
Subsidized heavily by the Chinese government, the fleet ranks among the worst in the world Global Illegal Fishing Indexwhich tracks illegal, unauthorized and unregulated fishing around the world.
Chinese vessels were accused of fishing without a license at least 237 times between 2015 and 2019, while several Chinese vessels have been detained in recent years for illegal fishing or encroachment on Vanuatu, Palau, Malaysia and South Korea.Hundreds of Chinese ships were also Find Turn off the transponders and fish for squid in North Korean waters.
In addition to illegal fishing, the Chinese fleet also defendant According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, a UK-based campaign group, the target is to target endangered and protected marine life in the world’s oceans, including sharks, seals and dolphins.
Beijing fired allegations of illegal fishing, saying it “strictly complies” with international regulations. It said it had also stepped up monitoring of its ocean-going fleet and had voluntarily suspended fishing to protect resources, including in the northern Indian Ocean.
However, regional concerns about Chinese conduct at sea are not limited to illegal fishing.
Experts also say China uses its fishing boats as a paramilitary fleet in the resource-rich South China Sea. Beijing claims almost the entire waterway, and fishing boats played a key role in capturing the Paracel Islands from Vietnam in 1974 and the disputed territories of Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 1995 and 2012.
Last May, Manila again sounded the alarm about what it called the “continuous deployment, persistent presence and illegal activities” of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels near Thitu Island. It said it had spotted some 287 vessels anchored in the area.
Beijing said there was “no so-called Chinese maritime militia” and that the fishing boats were there to avoid bad weather. But the U.S. says the number of these ships loitering in the region has been increasing for months, regardless of the weather, while critics in Beijing say they fear the tactic could be part of its grand plan to advance in disputed waters a part of.
Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a professor of international relations at King’s College London, said China’s maritime conduct “is a concern not only for the Quartet, but also for Southeast Asian countries”. “So, I expect many countries to join [the IPMDA]. “
“In my opinion, this is the first clear anti-China step taken by the Quartet because it is clearly directed at China,” Pardo said, noting that the Quartet’s biggest move to date has been related to the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine. “But we have to see how effective it is.”
In Beijing, news of the Quartet’s latest move has drawn contempt and concern.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters that China “actively fulfills its obligations under relevant international law” and said that “engaging in small groups and provoking confrontation between groups is a real threat to a peaceful, stable and cooperative maritime order.”
Meanwhile, an op-ed in the Communist Party-owned Global Times tabloid called the IPMDA “ridiculous”.
“The Quartet’s first substantive security action against Chinese fishing vessels seems like a joke,” wrote Hu Bo, director of the South China Sea Strategic Situational Exploration Initiative. He said the initiative was only meant to stigmatize China and deprive it of its right to peacefully use the ocean.
“The diversion of Chinese fishing vessels is likely to be just an ‘appetizer’, and Chinese government and coast guard vessels, as well as warships, will also be the next targets to be monitored. This is feasible for Quad’s broader surveillance system,” he added. .
Others said the IPMDA could escalate tensions between China and the Quartet.
“The US-led Marine Domain Awareness Partnership (IMPDA) is a covert rationale for building a surveillance network aimed at criticizing China’s fisheries,” Beijing-based analyst Einar Tangen told Al Jazeera.
“This will be another stimulus to deteriorating international relations.”