China Prepares for Clash In South China Sea

Night Watch
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Posted: May 18, 2013 12:01 AM

China: China Thursday announced the start of its annual 10-week fishing ban "in most parts of the South China Sea" for rehabilitating marine resources.

"Foreign boats will also be strictly banned from fishing in the area during the period," China Daily reported, quoting Wu Zhuang, Director of the South China Seas Fishery Bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture.

Wu said fishing equipment will be confiscated and fishermen will be expelled if foreign boats are found fishing in the area. "In the past, we have found some foreign boats entering the region to fish during the period of the ban. We will strengthen monitoring efforts to prevent any foreign boats from entering the area."

Last year, China's fishing ban was not recognized by some Southeast Asian countries as they said it extended into their territorial waters, according to Chinese press.

Comment: The Chinese have announced a ban on fishing in the South China Sea since 1999, according to Chinese press. Many countries in Southeast Asia do not recognize the Chinese claims, so the vigor with which China enforces the claim directly influences regional relations and the likelihood of confrontations at sea.

Chinese enforcement has been tightening steadily in the past year, but this will be the first closure during President Xi's administration. At the National People's Congress he stressed to the armed and security forces the importance of protecting Chinese sovereignty. Since then, more aggressive Chinese patrols and fishing have occurred near and around the Senkakus and probably will occur in the South China Sea this summer.

Pakistan: Update. The Election Commission of Pakistan said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 123 seats thus far, but that the count is not yet final because of challenges and investigations of irregularities.

Nevertheless, Pakistani analysts predict PML-N will be able to govern without forming a coalition because some 25 independents normally join the party that forms the government. PML-N needs 137 seats to govern.

Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif has begun forming his cabinet and wants to be sworn in on 28 May or to have parliament - the National Assembly - convene on that date.

Nigeria: Update. Wednesday's Ministry of Defense statement said the army, police and other security agencies had begun operations to "rid the nation's border territories of terrorist bases and activities".

The aim is to restore the nation's territorial integrity because the President admitted on 15 May that the state no longer controlled the entire territory of Nigeria. A presidential spokesman said, "We've had a lot of problems with border crime, and criss-crossing of the border by the insurgents, and there's also evidence that some of the insurgents really are non-Nigerians….As long as the terrorists can go in and out unchallenged, then we're in big trouble."

Comment: Analysts estimate that Nigeria has deployed 2,000 soldiers to the three northeastern states. They will be supported by combat aircraft. Coordinated operations with soldiers from Chad, Niger and Cameroon will be necessary to stop the cross border operations. The "non-Nigerians" refers to jihadist fighters  from LIbya, according to local reports.

In December and January, Nigerian forces succeeded in driving the Boko Haram jihadists from towns in north central Nigeria to the northeast. They should be able to force them from the local centers they now control in the northeast, but they cannot inflict the permanent losses that would be require to reduce the movement to a law and order problem.

Mali-France: France will keep 1,000 troops in Mali for an 'undetermined period' to fight al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), according to Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, during his current visit to London.

Comment: The French have steadily lengthened the duration of their deployment to Mali. The initial 90-day operation is now an open-ended commitment, probably depending on the pace of training Malian forces and the speed of deployment of African peacekeeping forces.

End of NightWatch

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