News / Asia

Maritime Disputes Muddy Asian Waters

FILE - A South Korean ship (R) sails by Navy MSB (Movement Sea Base) off the South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea.
FILE - A South Korean ship (R) sails by Navy MSB (Movement Sea Base) off the South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea.
Tensions continue to rise in Asia due to maritime territorial disputes. South Korea has gone ahead with military drills near an islet it controls despite protests from Japan, which also claims the territory. And China is placing a second oil rig into waters off Vietnam’s coast where the two countries are embroiled in a protracted dispute.
 
South Korea’s navy says it conducted a firing exercise off its east coast to boost its ability to repel any possible attack by North Korean submarines.
 
The Yonhap news agency says drills have been conducted in the waters on a regular basis, but this is the first time the military announced them publicly.
 
That prompted a harsh response from Japan, which claimed that the location of the announced South Korean drill includes Japanese territorial waters.
 
The area is near an island administered for decades by South Korea, which calls it Dokdo and which the Japanese refer to as Takeshima.
 
Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, calls the South Korean drill unacceptable.
 
The top Japanese government spokesman said Seoul’s action is “extremely regrettable” and Tokyo strongly urged it to cancel the exercise.
 
South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Wi Yong-seop said Seoul “will not take into consideration any demands or interference” from Japan on this matter.
 
Wi added that the exercise, which he characterized as for self-defense, “is progressing as planned.”
 
The South Korean exercise involves 19 naval ships and reportedly includes firing torpedoes, ship-to-ship cruise missiles and air-to-sea Harpoon missiles.
 
South Korea’s navy quoted naval operations chief Admiral Hwang Ki-chul as ordering officers to pursue to the end North Korean submarines and “bury them at sea” if provoked.
 
Earlier this week, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un inspected one of his naval units in the eastern sea and was photographed in the conning tower of a rusting green submarine.
 
Kim was quoted by state media telling the commanding officers and sailors they should be aware “hateful enemies” are awaiting a chance to invade, so it is imperative to prepare for battle.
 
Three thousand kilometers to the south, increased Chinese maritime activity continues to generate attention and strong concern from Vietnam.
 
The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration has announced a second oil rig, the Nanhai-9, is being parked in waters equidistant from China’s Hainan island and the central Vietnamese coast.

The new platform in the Gulf of Tonkin, where there is no consensus on border demarcation, is more distant from the disputed Paracel islands than the first oil rig.
 
Placement of the initial rig, Haiyang Shiyou-981, early last month flared tensions between Beijing and Hanoi, with accusations traded of vessels ramming ships of those of the other country. It also prompted an outbreak of anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam

At a briefing Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said there was no reason for other countries to be upset about China locating more oil rigs in the South China Sea.

"I would like to ask you to look at the map patiently and you will see very clearly that the coordinators are completely in the waters close to China's Hainan and Guangdong provinces," she said. "So I think for these normal activities there is no need to read more into this or to have an over-active imagination."
 
China provided the first rig with an escort of 80 civilian and coast guard ships to its location in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.
 
Tense bilateral discussions in Hanoi Wednesday about the rig resulted in no reported progress.
 
China took the Paracel chain from South Vietnam in 1974. Vietnam and China fought a land border war five years later.
 
Beijing claims virtually all of the South China Sea, waters that are rich in natural resources.
 
Besides Vietnam and China, five other governments - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the  Philippines and Taiwan - have conflicting claims in the South China Sea.
 
The rising tension in the waters is also prompting concern from countries in the region not party to the dispute, including Australia. Its foreign minister, Julie Bishop, in an interview with VOA’s Korean Service, said that while her country does not take a stand on how to resolve the claims, it does want the issue resolved without force.
 
“We call on all parties to negotiate and resolve the issues in accordance with international law. The countries of ASEAN are proposing a code of conduct with China and we support that policy decision,” said Bishop.
 
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Thursday said Beijing is willing to work with ASEAN to “steadily pursue forward consultations” on the maritime code of conduct. A meeting to discuss this is to be held next week on the Indonesian island of Bali.
 
Analysts have expressed skepticism the Chinese will agree to any binding code. They note such an agreement would hamper China’s ability to project its control of the sea through maritime patrols and naval exercises.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid