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On April 10, 2012, two Chinese law-enforcement cutters on joint patrol in the South China Sea received orders to proceed immediately to Scarborough Shoal, a disputed cluster of rocks 140 nautical miles west of Subic Bay, the Philippines. Earlier that day, a Chinese fisherman aboard one of several boats moored in the lagoon had transmitted an alarming message to authorities in his home port in Hainan: “Philippine Navy ship number 15 heading this way.”
Ship number 15 was BRP Gregorio del Pilar, an elderly former U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutter now serving as a frigate in the Philippine navy. Not long after the first message arrived in Hainan, sailors operating from the ship entered the lagoon and approached the Chinese boats. At this point, the fisherman sent a final message: “They’re boarding.”
China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S Naval War College
Newport, Rhode Island
China Maritime Studies, China, South China Sea, international relations
Martinson, Ryan D., "Echelon Defense: The Role of Sea Power in Chinese Maritime Dispute Strategy" (2018). CMSI Red Books, Study No. 15.