News / Asia

Tension Mounts Between Vietnam, China

Fishing boats are seen on bay of Ly Son islands of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province, April 10, 2012.
Fishing boats are seen on bay of Ly Son islands of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province, April 10, 2012.
Marianne Brown
HANOI - Vietnam’s new Law on the Sea, passed last week, has sparked a fresh round of tensions with China about competing territory in the South China Sea.

When Vietnam’s National Assembly passed the law on June 21, the reaction from China was immediate and aggressive.

The law states Vietnam’s sovereignty claims of the Spratly and Paracel islands, territory believed to be rich in oil and minerals, and also claimed by its larger neighbor. Beijing says the law is illegal and called in Vietnamese ambassador Nguyen Van Tho to protest.

Analysts have said the move is directed more towards engaging Vietnamese public opinion, rather than stirring ire with China. Last year, hundreds of protesters took to the streets for weeks of rare demonstrations in Vietnam, protesting Chinese aggression against Vietnamese oil exploration vessels.

Nguyen Quang Thach, a resident of Hanoi,  was at the protests last year. He says he welcomes the new law.

"I’m happy with this because we know the demarcation of our sea territory and it’s a good way to send a message to other countries that we have the law and regulations," he said.

The face-off with China quickly escalated.   The same day Vietnam passed the Law on the Sea, China’s Foreign Ministry announced it had raised the level of governance on three groups of islands in the South China Sea from county to prefectural level, under the control of Sansha city.

The seat of government will be on Woody Island, which is part of the Paracels, an area China took from what was then South Vietnam in 1974.

Sansha city has been in the works for some time, says Jennifer Richmond, China director for the security analysts firm Stratfor, which made it easy to bring up in response to Vietnam’s new law.

"Sansha city is not a new concept. In fact I think they started thinking about this back in the late 50s and 60s.  So what they have done is they had always had a county administrative area," said Richmond. "What they are trying to do now is make it a prefecture administration with some territorial claim."

Richmond says the announcement was made in reaction to the new law, but is not directed entirely at Vietnam. Instead, she says it was part of a public relations exercise aimed at the Chinese public as the country gets ready for a leadership transition.

Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to take control from Hu Jintao as head of the Communist party later this year.  In the meantime, the government’s main concern is to remain strong and be seen as unified to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible.  Richmond says the strategy is not unique to China.

"Vietnam, the Philippines and China, particularly Vietnam and China, are masters at doing this. When they’ve got domestic problems that are weighing on them, a lot of times they will create international situations that will take the heat off the state," she said.

She says there will likely be more skirmishes with China about territory in the sea.  However, Richmond says they will likely be more reactive than proactive.

The announcement of Vietnam's new law was briskly followed by yet another skirmish.

On Saturday, state-owned China National Offshore Oil, known as CNOOC, invited foreign firms to bid on energy exploration in nine lots off the coast of Vietnam.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry calls the move illegal and says the lots set aside by China were entirely within Vietnam's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and contitnental shelf, as laid out in the Untied Nations Law on the Sea.  

Richmond says the moves lifted tensions, but remain part of a well-worn pattern of  threats and counter-threats and raises the level of rhetoric even higher.

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by: Guinea-Bissau from: us
June 29, 2012 12:13 AM
or list for China lift the Vietnamese Communist additional lesson , because a main supply cuop Vietnamese Communist Vietnamese people state the same action

by: RollingStone
June 28, 2012 10:19 PM
I am hoping that someday China is broken into pieces. It is a big country already but still keep claiming territory from other nations. They should set Tibet free, leave Taiwan alone, return the Paracel to Vietnam, leave Scarborough to the Philippines and stop their claims of the whole South China sea.

I think China appetite will not end soon until they are broken.
In Response

by: Tommy from: China
July 01, 2012 8:08 AM
you are not responsible to say those words above. you should to learn history about China, especially the part Tibet and Taiwan, then you will know they are a section in chinese territory since thousands years ago. China does not claim for the territory from other nations, China is protecting her territory being thefted by other countries. This is the truth you should understand.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
June 30, 2012 11:38 AM
keep dreaming. Totalitarianism is a tradition of China. Divide China is almost impossible.
And China will never give up Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia.
No one can stop China's rising. You may try but prepare the taste of nuks!
In Response

by: xiuxiupretty from: china
June 29, 2012 9:36 PM
dont be act like u know everything.

by: Anonymous
June 28, 2012 3:55 PM
Red China invaded the Phillipines and now the Vietnam. This creature is dagerously out of control. The West either put them on the leash or dispose them before it too late. The solution is break them up and dissolve them piece by piece. They are RED anyway, not worth to have a second thought.
In Response

by: Anonymous
June 29, 2012 6:18 AM
You donnot know the truth
In Response

by: Bully daddy
June 28, 2012 10:04 PM
Looking for a bully daddy? Be careful of inviting Uncle Wolf in.

by: Anonymous
June 28, 2012 3:42 PM
Communist China growing out of control. As thief, cheat, liar and loud. The West must find ways to break them up to a pre-WW2. or smoke 'em all.
All they are good for making Walmart cheap junks, that all they good for, Else, nothing worth to feed 'em.
Dissolve Communist Vietnam as well if we can.
In Response

by: Tong from: canada
July 03, 2012 1:59 PM
@mike You are so funny. How about nuclear, jet and missile technologies of US in world war two? Weren't they stolen from German?
In Response

by: mike from: usa
June 30, 2012 12:12 AM
all technologies China has today were stolen from Wester countries.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
June 28, 2012 11:29 PM
we are also good at sending women to the out space, sending submarine to deep ocean 7000 meters.
we are good at building the fastest train system in the world.
we are good at designing missiles which can send nuks to your country and destroy aircraft carriers.
most important we are good at destroying your economy, you are doomed, lol

by: Lei from: USA
June 28, 2012 3:18 PM
Why can't we just get along... I blame the communist government of China... spreading lying propagandas.

by: No Chink
June 28, 2012 2:47 PM
China can only bully one nation but once a coalition of nations is formed, China will back down. Asian countries need to reunite themselves against China. In late 1800′s China was beaten after the Opium war, looks like they will be beaten in the 21 Century over the Oil war.
Quote: John Quincy Adams commented that opium was “a mere incident to the dispute… the cause of the war is the kowtow- the arrogant and insupportable pretensions of China that she will hold commercial intercourse with the rest of mankind not upon terms of equal reciprocity, but upon the insulting and degrading forms of the relations between lord and vassal.”[26]
History can be repeat!
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 01, 2012 4:25 AM
Don't just recall the only shameful history of china. your country have shameful history too, China will be strong. Hope your country's shame history repeated too!!!
In Response

by: Anonymous from: BEIJING
June 29, 2012 9:10 PM
just relex, it will never happen. the truth is China is waking and standing from now. this world will see the power of China.

by: raafat,abou-ikdeh from: cleveland,ohio
June 28, 2012 2:26 PM
it will not be never ever until the end of the world a very good time for friend having some sot of misunderstanding while another friend killing each other we should united to force peace in this world and help each others so please stop the fighting and both of you make a good effort to help me and the Syrian people for a big smile on all of us faces.please please.

by: Hokwongwei from: Taiwan
June 28, 2012 2:25 PM
This should have been reread before publication. The other problems aside, the author apparently can't decide if Jennifer Richmond is a "he" or a "she."

by: Tso Chicken from: USA
June 28, 2012 1:37 PM
Those islands aren't anywhere near Chica. Of course, they're closer to the Philippines than Vietnam, too...
In Response

by: Tong from: canada
July 03, 2012 3:29 PM
Philippines is closer to China. Should it be a part of China?
In Response

by: Taiwan owns all
June 28, 2012 10:09 PM
If proximity is the final determining factor, Taiwan should own Diaoyu island and all islands in the South China Sea!
In Response

by: Kaveh from: USA
June 28, 2012 2:18 PM
@Tso: Paracels are closed to Vietnam and China. However, the Vietnamese were on those islands centuries before China took all southern china today. Philippines is over 500 miles away from Paracels. Spratly has over 750 islands, some are in Philippines territory. A lots are in Vietnam territory. The rest are beyond the 200 miles to claim. The Philippine and China claim those islands beyond 200 miles recently. Vietnam did it centuries before. Using fake documents and power, China claim all islands beyond Vietnam and Philippines 12 mile-territory. China ignore the 200 mile international rule.

by: Anonymous
June 28, 2012 1:07 PM
Vietnam and The Philippines and China stake claims to the area while the USA relocates more forces to the Pacific region....who is up next.... Indonesia or Malaysia?
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