There are a number of impediments to effective enforcement, but the study authors suggest there are also mechanisms in place that may make this effort mort effective.
Good maritime governance has been lacking in this region. If they could create, what would amount to an international Coast Guard with a supporting judicial system, it might also serve as a model for other areas such as West Africa, the Straits of Malacca, and the Caribbean.
The Indonesian vessel involved was reportedly a Todak class, which is a German Lurssen “PB-57” design, a bit larger than the FRC at 447 tons fl, 58.1 meters long and 7.6 meters of beam, armed with a Bofors 57mm (like that on the NSC), a 40mm and two 20mm. Clearly if it had come to a fight, the Indonesian vessel would have enjoyed an advantage, at least until Chinese reinforcements arrived.
China is showing a complete disregard for the provisions of the UNCLOS treaty to which they are a party.
Making an enemy of Indonesia is a particularly bad idea for China, in that Indonesia potentially controls all the major straits through which the vast majority of Chinese trade must pass and all the alternatives are also in the hands of nations China seems intent on alienating.
As noted earlier, there doesn’t seem to be universal agreement on what the “Law of the Sea” (UNCLOS) means. The Washington Post is reporting that Senior Col. Geng Yansheng, a Ministry of Defense spokesman, has claimed that China has “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea but would continue to allow others to freely navigate the 1.3 million-square-mile waterway.
On July 23 Secretary Clinton crossed the Chinese by suggesting an multilateral approach to resolution of competing claims. Competing claims involve Japan, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines. Claims to the Spratley Islands group seem to be particularly contentious. There is an outline of competing claims here. China has used force in the past, seizing the Paracel Islands from Vietnam in 1976. Dai Bingguo, China’s state councilor in charge of foreign policy, had told Secretary Clinton in May during a tense exchange on the region that China viewed its claims to the sea as a “core national interest.” In addition they seem to have thrown down the gauntlet to the US over exercises in the Yellow Sea.
To complicate matters, the Chinese have a new weapon system, and anti-ship ballistic missile, to enforce their claims, that makes the Navy’s traditional response to Chinese aggressiveness appear much more dangerous.
Here is a news report that Indonesia is going to establish a Coast Guard. This is more evidence that the importance of an independent Coast Guard is being recognized. Interesting that Japan as well as the US are sited as being willing to help set up the new service. Japan’s Coast Guard of course, traces its roots back to our own, when the occupation forces under MacArthur were reshaping Japanese institutions. Clearly the Japanese have a vested interest in the security of Maritime commerce through the Straits of Malacca, but I had not previously heard of them offering security assistance and training. On the other hand, during WWII, then Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, was about the only place where Japan’s vision of a “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” actually seemed to be cooperative.