Shooting of Taiwanese fisherman to muddy dynamics of China’s sea disputes



The apparent killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard will only muddy the ongoing dispute in the South China Sea, giving the mainland Chinese more reason to assert their claims against the Philippines.

A 65-year old Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng was shot by the PCG on Thursday morning as he operated 304 kim off the southern coast of Taiwan

China’s hard-line Global Times writes:


Beijing’s next step depends primarily on how officials in Taiwan react – whether they have the courage to lift their “concern” to “strong condemnation” and whether they wish for help from the mainland.


Thus far, Taiwan’s attitude has remained warm despite frictions with other stakeholders. If they make representations to the Philippines themselves, this matter will end with nothing definitive, or perhaps at most, compensation from the Philippines.


If it is confirmed the Philippine navy is behind the shooting, the mainland should show its stance by intensifying navy activities in the disputed water between the mainland and Philippines.


Of course, if China can successfully back Taiwan here, it could have implication for the East China Sea, Senkaku-Diaoyu Island dispute, where Taiwan has forged an agreement with Japan over fishing right’s there. Should Taiwan countenance mainland China’s support or pressure, I imagine it would embolden Beijing to take actions to “support” Taiwan if a new dispute ever emerged between Japan and Taiwan.

The same Global Times piece notes:

Most of the analysts from the Chinese mainland speculated that because the Philippines was awed by the might of the Chinese mainland, it had vented its anger on Taiwan …


Should Japan boost its ailing economy by arming Asia?

So the winds shift. Japan and the Philippines agree to deepen their strategic partnership as the Asia Pacific region changes. As the AFP article notes, “Both countries are locked in separate territorial disputes with China.”

Specifically, Japan is to help the Philippines improve its coast guard ability, possibly including the sale of 10 multi-role coast guard response vessels. While Japan is taking small steps out of the post-war shadow of legislated pacifism, I can’t see a new Japanese war machine any time soon.

Only today, Japan announced a $117 billion economic stimulus with the aim of boosting economic growth by 2 percentage points. The economy, which shrank 0.9 per cent in the 3rd quarter is officially in recession. But before this recession, it has long faced deflation, an aging population, a shrinking workforce and a general economic malaise after the stellar growth until the late 1980s. The government is carrying debts of more than 204 per cent of GDP.

The stimulus flagged today is about newly elected PM Shinzo Abe’s bootstrap policy to turn Japan’s economy around. It would be interesting to see Japan twin its dual need to boost its flagging economy by selling ships and armaments to its Asian neighors in need of hardware to respond to China in the region. I understand the Japanese still make good submarines.