Thursday, 16 June 2011

China sends in patrol ship as Vietnam carries out live fire drills in South China Sea

Vietnam held military drills in disputed territory

Tension continues to increase between China and other countries bordering the disputed South China Sea, as China sent one of its biggest civilian maritime patrol ships into the region on Wednesday 15th June.

The Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper controlled by Beijing, said the Haixun-31 would travel to Singapore, and while an exact route was not laid out, it is understood that the ship would pass near the disputed Paracel and Spratly islands groups.
“It [the Haixun-31] will protect national maritime rights and sovereignty,” according to the newspaper.

What the Chinese are calling a routine patrol has come at a time of almost unprecedented tension after Vietnam held war exercises in the waters of the South China Sea using live ammunition on Monday, 12th June. Drills were carried out on a number of islands in the Spratly archipelago that Vietnam administers.

This current wave of hostility started on 27th May, when Vietnam accused a Chinese patrol boat of cutting the cables of an oil exploration ship. On 9th June, Vietnam said a similar incident had occurred. China claimed Vietnam had illegally entered its waters and endangered Chinese fishermen's lives.

The Philippines is also going through a period of increased tension with China. In early June, the Philippines accused China of erecting poles, placing a buoy and leaving building materials in disputed waters.

The Philippine's President Benigno Aquino's office recently said it was renaming the South China Sea the 'West Philippine Sea' in light of its claims.

China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam claim all or part of the sea. It is an area rich in fish, oil and gas, and is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

As China's power in the region has grown, many states have formed closer relations with the US, and issues like the South China Sea will be a crucial test in whether China's rise can be as peaceful as it insists it will be.

Aquino, for example, said the Philippines would look to the US for support in the South China Sea dispute. In a press conference on 14th June he said “Perhaps the presence of our treaty partner, which is the United States of America, [will] ensure that all of us have freedom of navigation, to conform to international law.”

Vietnam has also called on the US to help resolve territorial disputes in the region, however China has rejected this, saying it "opposes any country unrelated to the South China Sea issue meddling in disputes, and it opposed internationalization of the South China Sea issue."

Beijing has said the dispute can be resolved through direct discussions and has insisted it will not use force.

Sources: BBC News, Guardian, Open Security, People's Daily, Upstream

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

No comments:

Post a Comment