China beefs up South China Sea patrols

March 19, 2009 at 8:04 PM
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BEIJING, March 19 (UPI) -- Beijing may convert retired navy ships into patrol vessels to stop South China Sea fishing it considers illegal, a fishing supervision administrator said.

The government has been facing new "challenges and complications" in supervising China's 1.8-million-square-mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, Wu Zhuang, director of the Administration of Fishery and Fishing Harbor Supervision of the South China Sea, told the state-run China Daily.

An exclusive economic zone is a sea zone over which a nation can claim special rights, including for fishing. It usually extends for 200 nautical miles out from its coast.

The South China Sea, encompassing an area from Singapore to the Strait of Taiwan, and its mostly uninhabited islands are subject to competing claims of sovereignty by several countries.

In addition, China and the United States had a confrontation March 8 over the special economic zone.

Beijing said the U.S. Navy ship the Impeccable had conducted surveillance activities "in China's special economic zone in the South China Sea without China's permission."

Washington said it considered the ship in international waters.

U.S. national intelligence Director Dennis Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee two days later the Chinese "seem to be more militarily aggressive" in general -- a charge Beijing disputed.

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