27 September 2019

Japan MoD Releases White Paper: Defense of Japan 2019—Mentions China Maritime Militia for 3rd Year Running

Defense of Japan 2019 (Tokyo: Ministry of Defense, September 2019).

Click here to download full text.


p. 67

It is pointed out that, among the militia, whose status is China’s armed force other than the military, the so-called maritime militia is playing the role of the front guard for supporting China’s maritime interests.37 The maritime militia is said to operate in the South China Sea, etc.38 and consist of fishermen and residents of isolated islands. However, the details of the maritime militia have not been revealed. Given the China’s emphasis on the necessity of “fully exerting the overall power of the military, police and militia” on the seas,39 attention is to be paid to these asymmetrical forces, too.40


37 In April 2013, when Chairman Xi Jinping visited the maritime militia of Hainan Province to give encouragement, he reportedly gave instructions to the maritime militia to collect information on distant seas and actively conduct island construction activities and stated, “you are playing the role of the vanguard in protecting our maritime interests.”

38 For example, when Chinese naval and other vessels obstructed the U.S. Navy surveillance ship Impeccable on the high seas on the South China Sea in March 2009, maritime militia were said to be aboard the fi shing boat that tried to take away a sonar from Impeccable. It is also pointed out that when the deep-water drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 conducted prospective drilling to the south of the Paracel Islands from May to July 2014, steel-hull fi shing boats maned by maritime militia also arrived as an escort fleet.

39 Instructions by Defense Minister Chang Wanquan (then) when he made an observation tour of the maritime militia equipment in Zhejiang Province in August 2016.

40 The status of China’s maritime militia under international law is said to be unclear. On the other hand, when asked in November 2018 about China’s maritime militia, Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver reportedly said, “we’re less interested in the color of the hull than the activity and the actions.”