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Chabot, Luria Highlight Malign Activities by China in South China Sea

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH-01) Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia and Nonproliferation and House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Vice Chair Elaine Luria (D-VA-02), introduced legislation aiming to counter Chinese maritime militia fleets in the South China Sea. The Countering PRC Maritime Militia Fleet Act (H.R. 6158) requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct a study assessing these militia fleets and to use that analysis to inform an American response. 

“China’s Maritime Militia is a major tool in the PLA’s gray zone aggression toolbox,” Ranking Member Chabot said. “A top example is Beijing’s use of the Maritime Militia to swarm islands controlled by our treaty ally the Philippines. To date, the U.S. and our allies have been unable to develop an effective response to these acts of aggression, as well as similar coercive actions that don’t quite rise to the level of open warfare. That is why I’ve joined Representative Luria in introducing the ‘Countering PRC Maritime Militia Fleet Act’ so that we may bring a greater focus to solving this problem.” 

“We focus extensively on the core mainline warships of the PLAN, but we also need to understand the role of China’s growing militia fleets and how they could be leveraged in the future to undermine freedom of navigation and recognized maritime territorial claims.” Vice Chair Luria said. “We must analyze the threat posed by these potentially dangerous and vast militia fleets that operate outside of normal military rules and customs.” 

For years, the U.S. has grappled with the pervasive existence of Chinese militia fleets, but the Navy continues to lack sufficient plans in place to deal with the growth and unrestricted use of these fleets that disguise as fishing vessels. In the hotly contested South China Sea, the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) plays a major role in coercive activities to achieve China’s political goals without fighting, but rather by harassing other vessels and illegally fishing in other countries’ territorial seas without consequence. The militia has played significant roles in several coercive incidents over the years and continue to harass U.S. Navy presence in the area; further, they could become armed if conflict arises. 
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