1. China, Taiwan vs. Indonesia
Chinese fishing trawlers have been involved in two rather strongly publicized disputes this month.
One of the two disputes occurred on March 19 local time, in a location called a traditional Chinese fishing ground by the Chinese embassy in Jakarta. This was, reportedly, a bit south of the South China Sea, and well inside Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, according to Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesian minister of fisheries and maritime affairs (and, according to this announcement on “Facebook”, previously an entrepreneur in the seafood distribution and fisheries industry). The Indonesian coastguard reportedly arrested eight fishermen from a Chinese fishing ship before a Chinese coast guard ship intervened and rammed the fishing ship back into the South China Sea, according to the English-language Jakarta Globe. Beijing has since demanded the release of the eight fishermen, but Indonesia appears determined to prosecute them.
Chinese foreign-ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, just as the Chinese embassy in Jakarta, referred to the incident location as “traditional Chinese fishing grounds”. She also said that Natuna Islands belong to Indonesia, and there is no objection from China on that. The Jakarta Globa quoted Pudjiastuti as saying that the incident occurred occurred just 4.34 kilometers off Indonesia’s Natuna islands, adding her conclusion that this was inside Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone. On another press conference two days later, Hua answered even more questions concerning the incident.
Two days (local time) after the arrests, two Taiwanese fishing boats were fired at by what they believed to be an official Indonesian vessel while in the Strait of Malacca, according to the English-language Taipei Times. According to the report, a spokesman for the Indonesian Navy Headquarters said that there had been no report by the Indonesian coast guard or navy vessels of chasing Taiwanese fishing boats, but on Thursday, the Straits Times quoted an Indonesian government taskforce against illegal fishing as saying that there had been an incident involving two Taiwanese tuna longliners, and that the shots had been fired in self-defense as the Taiwanese vessels had tried to ram it.
2. China vs. Argentina
On March 14, Argentina’s coast guard sunk a Chinese trawler off the Patagonian coast. The BBC’s Mandarin service reported in an online newsarticle quoted the Argentine coastguard as saying that
The Chinese trawler Luyan Yuanyu 010 was detected while conducting illegal activities in the [Argentine] economic exclusive zone on Monday (March 14). When trying to stop [the Chinese trawler], the coast guard was surprised by a counter-attack and then sank this trawler.
The speaker of the Chinese foreign ministry, Lu Kang, said on March 16 that the trawler in question had been “chased for several hours during its work in Argentine fishing grounds. The statement said nothing about “illegal fishing”, nor about whether or not the trawler had put up a counter attack [or counter attacks].
Lu Kang emphasized that all 32 crew members had been saved, that the Chinese side had made urgent representations to the Argentine side, that it had demanded an investigation and a report as well as safeguarding the safety and legal rights of the crew, as well as avoiding similar incidents from happening in the future.
The official news agency Xinhua said that while a debate about whether one side had trespassed or whether the other had acted out of proportions while enforcing the law, the Chinese embassy in Argentina had reminded the Chinese fishing companies busy in the South Atlantic to pay attention to safety.
The BBC report reproduces the Argentine coast guards account as saying that the Chinese trawler, after its detection, had tried to escape into international waters. In the process, it had rammed the coast guard vessel several times, thus putting not only the Chinese crewmen at risk, but the Argentinians, too. While 28 crew members were apparently saved by another Chinese vessel, four were picked from the water by the Argentine coast guard and will reportedly be prosecuted in Argentina.
According to the online trade publication SeafoodSource.com, the Luyan Yuanyu 010 trawler was operated by Shandong Yantai Marine Fisheries Co., […] a subsidiary of the China National Fisheries Corporation (CNFC), which ultimately, across some shareholding, makes this a state-owned operation.
A possibly similar incident, but in politically-charged waters, occured four and a half years ago, in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands which are controlled by Japan, and considered Chinese by Beijing and Taipei. Japan released the crew and the captain of the Chinese fishing vessel about a fortnight after his arrest, and China gave the captain, Zhan Qixiong, a hero’s welcome.
During the two weeks of the crisis, China, according to the Economist,
apparently suspended its export of rare-earth minerals, which are vital to making electronics components used in everything from handheld gadgets to cars. On September 23rd China emphatically denied that it is blocking exports. And this may be true: there probably isn’t a formal directive. But in a country where informal rules abound, exporters know that it can pay to withhold shipments—in solidarity with a government that is angry at its neighbour.
The Japanese government in office at the time was largely seen as roundly defeated by Beijing, and efforts have since been made to make Japan less dependent on business with China in general, and on “rare earth minerals” in particular.
Probably, neither Argentina nor China are interested in escalating the conflict, and the Ji Lu Evening Post (齐鲁晚报) from Jinan, Shandong Province, quoted Xinhua as, in turn, quoting the Argentinian foreign minister Susana Malcorra as saying in a televised interview on March 18 that Argentina hoped the sinking of the trawler wouldn’t greatly affect the bilateral relations with Beijing.
The Chinese service of Argentina’s foreign broadcaster Radiodifusión Argentina al Exterior (RAE) quoted Malcorra correspondingly.
» No bit of Humanity, July 22, 2012