Chinese television reports on South Korea's detention of China's fishermen
Christina Wang and Iris Gao write for EA:
One clash with a foreign neighbour might be an accident. Two might be an unfortunate coincidence. Three, and even four, starts to look like a pattern.
In the last two months, the Chinese regime has been in disputes over territorial waters with Palau, the Philippines, and both North and South Korea after Chinese fishermen were challenged by foreign navies and Coast Guards. So, is this just a case of a series of clashes and misunderstanding because of the fishing or is Beijing pursuing a policy which could raise tensions in the Pacific?
The recent confrontations began on 30 March, when an official of the island of Palau claimed marine police had killed one Chinese fisherman and arrested 25 during a "serious conflict" in which a surveillance plane crashed. As China has no diplomatic relations with Palau, the Chinese Embassy in Micronesia launched an emergency system and urged Palau to notify Beijing of details of the case and to handle the incident in a fair and proper way. The 25 detainees were released after 19 days.
On 30 April, a Chinese fishing boat was intercepted by the South Korean Coast Guard. During the subsequent clash, three Koreans were injured, one fell overboard, and three more hid in the water. Eventually, the Chinese crew was subdued, and nine fishermen were arrested.
After a protest by the South Korean Government, Beijing expressed regret over the matter and promised no further incident. The fishermen were freed and returned to China.
And then there was the skirmish with North Korea. On 8 May, three Chinese fishing vessels, with 29 crew, were seized by a North Korean gunboat. Pyongyang demanded 400,000 yuan ($63,000) for each boat, eventually lowering this to 300,000 yuan ($48,000).
Chinese media claimed the fishermen were beat, robbed, and "locked in a small house, with no food to eat". Meanwhile, Beijing established "negotiation and close contact" with North Korea to press for a "proper" resolution, with assurances of the safety, legitimate rights, and interests of the fishermen.
The 29 men were freed on 20 May and returned to Dalian in China.
Chinese coverage of the dispute with North Korea
Last but far from least, there is the ongoing dispute with the Philippines, renewed when Philippine and Chinese vessels faced off at the Scarborough Shoal on 8 April.
The Philippine navy was trying to arrest a group of Chinese fisherman when they were challenged by two Chinese surveillance boats. Tensions reached the point where the Philippines' biggest warship was involved.
The stand-off continued for almost two months, until the Philippines withdrew its last coast guard ship, and Chinese surveillance craft departed on 5 June.
However, the two countries have continued the challenge in other ways. Protests took place outside the Chinese Embassy in Manila, while Beijing announced a quarantine on fruit imports from the Philippines on 20 May, ostensibly for ecological security and people's health.
So why has tension persisted with the Philippines, in contrast to Beijing's diplomatic resolution of the incidents with Palau and both Koreas?
Manila has a stake in continuing to press its claim to waters and an island near the Scarborough Shoal, hoping to develop its fishing economy. China's interest may extend farther, as it notes joint military exercised between the US and the Philippines in the South China Sea.
Indicating it will firmly defend "territorial integrity", the Chinese Government warned that no third country should be involved in the dispute over the Scarborough Shoal and the island it calls Huanghai.