China Removes Floating Barrier in South China Sea, Claims Regular Control of Region
In a move aimed at regaining “regular control” of the disputed South China Sea, China’s regime has insisted on removing a floating barrier in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal. The barrier had raised tensions with the Philippines over the disputed Scarborough Atoll. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) provided a photo showing Chinese Coast Guard ships patrolling alongside the floating barrier on September 20, 2023.
According to Gan Yu, spokesperson for the China Coast Guard, the Philippine ship of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) illegally entered waters near the Chinese island of Huangyan without approval. Gan Yu further explained that China temporarily deployed blockade nets in response to the intrusion and later took the initiative to retake the blockade facilities and resume normal control on September 23.
Contradicting the Philippines’ version of events, Gan Yu accused the country of staging a “self-induced and directed drama.” The Coast Guard had claimed that the barrier posed a danger to navigation and hampered fishing near Scarborough Atoll. However, Gan Yu dismissed these claims as a fabrication.
China reiterated its determination to continue conducting activities in the South China Sea region and to “resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty and maritime rights.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also restated China’s stance that Scarborough is Chinese territory and criticized the Philippine action as a “farce for its own amusement.”
Scarborough Shoal, located about 220 kilometers from the Philippines and almost 900 kilometers from China, has long been a subject of dispute. China claims the island as part of its ancestral territory, dating back to the 13th century, while the Philippines argues that it falls within its exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Despite an international court ruling against Beijing’s claims in 2016, China rejected the ruling, leading to ongoing tensions in the region.
China’s removal of the floating barrier is seen as a significant development in the South China Sea disputes and a gesture that could potentially ease tensions. However, the situation in the region remains complex and delicate, particularly due to the growing rivalry between China and the United States in the Indo-Pacific.
Over the years, China has prevented Filipino fishermen from accessing Scarborough, prompting the Philippines to take the case to the international court. Although Filipino fishermen were allowed to return to the area in 2016 following improved relations between the two countries, tensions have resurfaced recently due to the power play between China and the United States in the region.