So finally a Chinese warship that had run aground in Half Moon Shoal (known as Hasa-Hasa Shoal to the Philippine Government) had been “rescued” and “refloated” by other Chinese navy vessels that had come to its rescue. The rescue party reportedly consisted of “at least five vessels and several smaller boats” freed the People’s Liberation Army vessel, a “103.2-meter, 1,425-ton Jianghu-class frigate” said to have been patrolling the West Philippine Sea within an area claimed by the Philippines as part of its territory.
According to international maritime law, the Philippines is required to come to the assistance of distressed vessels within its territory. The Chinese warship with bow number 560 was first spotted by Philippine Air Force reconnaissance planes last week. At the time Foreign Department spokesman Raul Hernandez said that the Philippines would come to the assistance of the ship if requested by China.
Distressed or not, one would think though that a Chinese warship found to be sailing without permission in waters claimed by the Philippines would attract far swifter action than a civilian official announcing that they are waiting for a call for help from China. Back in March 2012, the Japanese government had also protested incursion of a Chinese vessel into its territorial waters but issued far stronger words…
A Japanese Foreign ministry official said at a briefing Friday that the ship, the Haijian 50, that morning entered Japanese territorial water near the Senkaku islands—called the Daioyu islands by China—despite repeated warnings by a Japanese patrol boat. The spokesman said Japan’s vice foreign minister summoned China’s ambassador to the foreign ministry to protest the matter as “extremely serious” and “unacceptable.”
For its part, the Chinese government also consistently makes its position on foreign military vessels sailing within its waters quite clear as evident in an incident in May 2009 when US surveillance ship USNS Victorious was spotted within China’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ)…
“The fact is that the USNS Victorious conducted activities in China’s exclusive economic zone in the Yellow Sea without China’s permission. China has expressed concern over this issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement. “We demand that the United States take effective measures to prevent similar acts from happening,” Ma said.
In June 2004, to give another example, the Iranian government apprehended and detained eight British military personnel aboard vessels that had allegedly “crossed into Iran’s territorial waters”.
The ministry said the Iranian Navy confiscated weapons and maps along with the ships when the vessels were stopped Monday. The crew members were being interrogated, the ministry said.
Iranian media Tuesday also reported that Tehran might put the eight on trial.
“They will be prosecuted for illegally entering Iranian territorial waters,” Iran’s state-run Arabic language Al-Alam television reported.
While the application of international law and agreed conventions around the use of military and diplomatic responses surrounding these different circumstances remain debatable, the common denominator across all of these incidents is the show of conviction and assertiveness in the manner with which these crises are managed. Of course to aspire to such virtues is easier said than done in a country that lacks the actual military hardware and martial tradition to back its claims.