Yellow Sea fleet strengthened by two new ships
China is sending two surveillance ships to the Yellow Sea, near waters where a joint drill involving a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, and South Korean forces is scheduled later this year.
The China Maritime Surveillance Force added two large ships to its fleet on Thursday to better protect the country's maritime rights and interests, Xinhua said.
The two patrol vessels, one of 1,000 tonnes and the other 1,500 tonnes, joined the force's northern fleet, based in Qingdao . The fleet oversees the country's territorial waters in the Yellow Sea, it said.
The ships will be used to crack down on violations of China's maritime interests, illegal use of Chinese waters and damage to its marine environment, resources and infrastructure, Xinhua quoted Fang Jianmeng , head of the North Sea branch of the State Oceanic Administration, as saying.
The new ships are part of a State Council plan unveiled in 1999 to add 13 patrol ships with displacements of 1,000 tonnes or more and five patrol helicopters to guard China's waters.
The first six ships and two helicopters joined the maritime surveillance force in November 2005, while the other vessels and helicopters were expected to be deployed by June this year, Xinhua said.
After the expansion, China will have 47 sea patrol ships, with 26 in the 1,000-tonne-plus class, it said. But maritime security experts said this was not enough to deal with the increasingly heavy burden of guarding the country's maritime interests.
The US and South Korea held joint naval drills in the Yellow Sea in November despite repeated opposition from Beijing.
Wang Hanling , a maritime affairs and international law expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: 'China has a coastline of 32,000 kilometres and 350,000 square kilometres of territorial sea and internal waters. And indeed, under the United Nations' Convention of the Law of the Sea, we also have three million square kilometres of exclusive economic zone.
'Unlike the fishery administration department under the Ministry of Agriculture, which oversees the domestic fishery industry, the maritime surveillance force is under State Oceanic Administration and is more involved in international events.'
Wang said that in peacetime, the administration was the frontline safeguard for China's territorial sovereignty and maritime interests.
All at sea
The end of a 1999 plan to add 13 vessels to China's sea-patrol capabilities will boost the fleet to this many ships: 47