Tension escalates over further disputes in South China Sea, Spratly Islands

Updated On: Jun 10, 2011

An incident in the South China Sea Thursday raised Chinese-Vietnamese tensions and led to outrage in Vietnam over an allegedly premeditated attack by the Chinese.

China responded by warning Vietnam against infringing upon its sovereignty.

According to Vietnam, a Chinese fishing boat rammed the exploration cables of another ship that was conducting a seismic survey within the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) established in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.  The Vietnamese government claims this is a Chinese ploy to bring a stable, formerly undisputed part of Vietnamese territory into the ongoing territorial disagreement between the two countries.

According to China’s version of events, a Chinese fishing boat had its net tangled with the exploration cables of the Vietnamese ship, and after the ship continued to drag the Chinese boat for over an hour, the Chinese boat cut the net.

Still, China claims that Vietnamese vessels in the area have continually violated Chinese sovereignty, and that Vietnam must cease oil exploration in the area.

This all comes just two weeks after a number of Chinese marine surveillance vessels cut the cables of another Vietnamese oil survey ship inside the same EEZ, claiming that the vessels were operating illegally.

As a result, Vietnam dispatched eight vessels to escort the survey ship, which may raise the stakes and escalate tensions even further.

Conflict has also spread to the Internet; in the last few days, a number of Vietnamese websites have also been hacked, including one within the foreign ministry, with Chinese writing and flags left behind.

Last Sunday, hundreds gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi to peacefully protest China’s recent naval actions.  The protest was the largest of its kind since 2007.

Report & Analysis: Sea spat raises China-Vietnam tensions [AFP, 9 June 2011]

Tensions between China and the Philippines have also ratcheted up the last few days, with Manila accusing China of intimidation in the disputed Spratly islands.  The Chinese ambassador called the accusation a rumor, maintaining that China has the right to protect its sovereignty, although it will not use force in the area.

President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines said there have been seven incidents of Chinese confrontation with Filipinos in the Spratlys in the past four months.

Both countries have expressed a desire to resolve the disputes peacefully through talks, although China has rejected any US attempts to mediate the conflict.

Report & Analysis: China denies Philippines accusations on Spratlys [AFP, 9 June 2011]

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