China will use its coast guard fleet to shore up its paramilitary presence in the South China Sea.
To bolster the coast guard’s role, China last year brought it under the control of the Central Military Commission.
Addressing coastguard officers over the Lunar New Year, CMC vice-chairman Xu Qiliang said all personnel should be well prepared for different situations in the East China Sea — where China has competing claims with Japan — and the South China Sea.
Xu also urged them to “staunchly safeguard” China’s maritime rights and interests.
Xu’s rallying cry to the coastguard comes after a major restructure of the service last year that saw the State Oceanic Administration, which previously oversaw the coastguard with the Ministry of Public Security, merged with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The coastguard then became part of the People’s Armed Police, which is directly under the CMC. The move was meant to improve the military’s coordination with maritime law enforcement, which was previously scattered across various agencies.
China has long wanted its coastguard fleet to be at the front line of enforcement in the troubled waters, leaving the navy to play a backup role.