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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.