A naval frigate came to the rescue of a Zhejiang fishing boat on fire near disputed waters in the East China Sea, shedding light on the People’s Liberation Army’s readiness to deploy in the region amid the simmering territorial spat with Japan.
The missile frigate Zhoushan sailed at high speed for 3½ hours to reach the burning boat late on Friday, 280 kilometres west-northwest of Amami-Oshima in Kagoshima Prefecture.
It arrived ahead of three Japanese coastguard patrol ships that responded to an earlier request by China for help, according to mainland media and Japan’s Kyodo news agency. Xinhua reported six of the 24 people aboard died in the blaze.
Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the presence of the Zhoushan had indicated the PLA’s air and sea readiness after Beijing announced the creation of an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in November. The zone includes the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, and has drawn protests from Tokyo.
Professor Ni Lexiong , a Shanghai-based naval expert, said Japan would be wary after the PLA’s fast reaction.
“The Japanese coastguard should be aware that it appears the PLA navy treated this rescue as a live drill – and they performed pretty well,” he said.
Full article: Rescue of blazing boat by frigate seen as PLA statement in East China Sea (South China Morning Post)