Beijing’s ‘monster’ ship ramps up tensions in South China Sea

The 165m-long ship
The 165m-long ship has yet to respond to radio challenges regarding its intentions

China has anchored the world’s largest coastguard ship in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea in a move that appears aimed at intimidating its neighbour.

The “monster ship”, which is 165m long, arrived in the area on July 3 and has not responded regarding its intentions, despite repeated radio challenges from the Philippine coastguard.

However, the Chinese have insisted they hold sovereignty over the waters and are “doing a maritime law enforcement operation”, said Jay Tarriela, a spokesman for the Philippine coastguard.

The giant Chinese ship has also deployed a smaller boat, anchored just half a mile away from a Philippine coastguard vessel.

The Philippine coastguard deployed a ship to the Sabina shoal in the South China Sea in May in an effort to deter small-scale reclamation by China.

China defies Hague tribunal ruling

For more than a decade, Beijing has been carrying out extensive land reclamation on islands in the South China Sea, building airstrips and other military facilities.

China has largely denied that it is doing so. It maintains that the international waters are all Chinese territory, defying a 2016 ruling by a tribunal in The Hague that found its maritime claims had no legal basis under international law.

Tensions have been building between China and the Philippines because of Beijing’s claims in the disputed waterways.

The South China Sea is a strategic waterway through which millions of dollars of global trade passes each year.

Coastguard and fishing vessels from other Southeast Asian nations, such as Vietnam, have also been harassed by the Chinese coastguard and navy.

Governments in the region and experts have worried for years that China’s maritime territorial claims could spark war.