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 As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.