A Chinese survey vessel Da Yang Hao has been observed north of Kayangel State within Palau waters, without proper authorization by the Palau government.
The 4,600-ton vessel entered Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on November 29th and Palau Maritime Security and Fish & Wildlife Protection (DMSFWP) under the Bureau of Public Safety has been keeping track of it. Due to rough seas, Palau Maritime has not been able to apprehend the vessel. “We are preparing a strategy to approach vessel given the rough seas at this time,” stated Aguon.
He added that they have requested assistance from the US Coast Guard and awaiting their response.
U.S. Embassy said that it is working closely with the Bureau of Public Safety’s Maritime Security in “support of Palau’s monitoring and response to any illegal and illicit activities in its Exclusive Economic Zone and Territorial waters.”
“The Embassy is in contact with U.S. government security and law enforcement stakeholders who have enduring missions and partnerships in Micronesia and Oceania. This includes Coast Guard.”
Da Yang Hao survey vessel was tracked crisscrossing three countries’ exclusive economic zones, Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia in September.
In October, the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Chinese Ambassador Ouyang Yujing to protest the presence of the vessel in Malaysia’s EEZ. The vessel was running back and forth between two eastern states of Malaysia in what reports say clearly showed research activities.
The vessel left Malaysia after the protest moving north toward the Philippines’ Balabac islands.
The vessel has deliberately crossed over from the South China Sea, past Malaysia, and around the Philippines into the Pacific Ocean in a month, entering into Palau’s EEZ.
This is not the first time for Chinese survey vessels to enter Palau’s exclusive economic zone without authorization.
In September of 2018, a Chinese survey vessel was found operating in Palau waters illegally. The activity prompted the Palau government to lodge a protest with the People’s Republic of China’s Embassy in the Federated States of Micronesia demanding they stop illegal research within Palau’s EEZ in violation of Article 246 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Earlier in 2012, a confrontation between an illegal Chinese fishing vessel and Palau’s Marine Law Enforcement in Palau waters also north of Kayangel State waters resulted in the shooting death of one of the Chinese fishermen by a police officer.
The vessel may be just passing through but with the increased presence of the US, Taiwan, and Japan’s defense forces in Palau supporting the Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, some believe that the vessel being in Palau waters maybe not be coincidental.