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Analysts: Vietnam Seeking Closer Ties With Philippines


Philippines' President Benigno Aquino (R) prepares to shake hands with Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during during their meeting at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, May 21, 2014.

Philippines' President Benigno Aquino (R) prepares to shake hands with Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during during their meeting at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, May 21, 2014.

After a visit to the Philippines this week by Vietnam's prime minister, analysts say it is apparent Hanoi is committed to deepening its relationship with Manila in the face of similar maritime disputes with China.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung this week said the two countries "shared deep concerns" over China’s "violations of international law" in disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Analysts said his strong statement in the presence of Philippine President Benigno Aquino shows Hanoi’s apparent move to gather support.

George Mason University Professor Nguyen Manh Hung, an expert on Vietnam’s current affairs, told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that Hanoi is seeking a "common voice" with Manila in order to deal with Beijing. “The two countries have similar interests in the South China Sea and are facing challenges posed by China. Therefore, it is normal and natural that they talk to each other to find a mutual way out. But I do not think it is a military alliance, as Vietnam does not have a policy regarding that aspect,” he said.

He added that Vietnam has launched a successful lobbying campaign to seek backing from other countries.

Unified in dissent

Former Philippine congressman and national security adviser Roilo Golez echoed Hung’s views, saying China’s "aggressive attitude has triggered counter-actions," binding countries with similar concerns together.

“We learn from each other’s experience because we know that everything is interconnected in this modern world. They [China] are occupying parts of our exclusive economic zones and they are doing it to you [Vietnam] also. So we have to take a stand now. Otherwise, China will keep on doing it, and try to occupy everything there,” said Golez.

At a conference in Shanghai early this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Asian countries against building what he sees as unhelpful military alliances, but he stopped short of singling out any countries.

In a development that Golez thought to be "very important," Vietnamese Prime Minister Dung was quoted by news agencies as saying that Hanoi "is considering legal action against China."

Legal basis

Manila last year filed a legal case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea disputing Beijing’s claim to waters and land features in the South China Sea.

Vu Quang Viet, a Vietnamese scholar based in New York who studies South China Sea issues, told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that as a small country that confronts a big neighbor like China, Vietnam should "rely on an international legal basis" and "follow in the Philippines' footsteps."

“Vietnam could bring China to the tribunal at any time, but it needs to do thorough research to see what aspect of the dispute could be used [against China]. Those should be related to Vietnam, and [Hanoi] could not simply copy the Philippines’ actions,” said Viet.

China’s deployment of an oil rig in waters that both Hanoi and Beijing claim sparked deadly unrest in Vietnam earlier this month.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.

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