News / Asia

Vietnam Faces Limited Options in China Sea Dispute

FILE - Image released by Vietnam Coast Guard, a Chinese coast guard vessel, right, fires water cannon at a Vietnamese vessel off the coast of Vietnam.
FILE - Image released by Vietnam Coast Guard, a Chinese coast guard vessel, right, fires water cannon at a Vietnamese vessel off the coast of Vietnam.
Marianne Brown
Vietnam has curbed the violent anti-China protests that swept the country after a Chinese oil rig began drilling in contested waters. But authorities have not dropped their opposition to the Chinese operation, sending boats to harass the drilling, considering waging a legal case in international courts to resolve the dispute, and courting regional allies like the Philippines.

China tightened the screws on Vietnam this week by sending a “position paper” to the United Nations on the operations of its $1 billion-oil rig in a part of the South China Sea that Vietnam also claims.
It accused Vietnam of ramming its vessels, sending frogmen and “other underwater agents” in waters which it says are indisputably Chinese.

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China has always resisted third party intervention in disputes between rival claimants over territory in the South China Sea, but this shift could put Vietnam in a difficult position, says Professor Carl Thayer from the Australian Defense Force Academy.
“Is China trying to provoke a debate in the general assembly, making countries make a decision to put up or shut up? Trying to isolate Vietnam by having those countries which are most concerned about China to shut up because they wouldn’t want to be seen as forced out into the open like Brunei, they just abstain and duck for cover," Thayer suggested.
Vietnam cannot compete with China’s military muscle and remains heavily reliant on Beijing for trade. Vietnam is believed to be considering waging a legal case for the disputed territory, but taking its claims to an international court could take years.
According to Thayer, one option could be to take advantage of the Philippines’ challenge of the legality of China's maritime claims at an international tribunal in The Hague.
“The best approach politically, if relations between China are irreparable, would be to join the Philippines and try to bolster its claim as a friend of the Philippines," Thayer said.
Vietnam’s coalition with the Philippines took a lighter tone on Monday when the country played football, volleyball and tug of war with sailors on an island in the Spratly archipelago.
In the past the two governments would have been wary about organizing such an event, lest they appear to be “ganging up” on China, says Alexander Vuving, a security analyst at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii.
However, things have now come to a point where both countries can step up and show their solidarity.
Vietnam can look also look outside the region for support, he said.
“India is far away but has also indicated its support for Vietnam so looking at the core interest for both nations I think that the casual allies, if you want to use the term, would be the Philippines, Japan and the U.S. and India," Vuving said.
He added that Vietnam has been moving closer to the U.S. even before the oil rig crisis in a “continuing rapprochement to the rise of China”.
But Vietnam’s politburo are divided on how close they get to Washington. Some do not want political reform and others have vested interests in economic ties with China.
“I think fundamentally modernizers want to get closer to the U.S., not just for defense of the territory but also for economic reform," Vuving explained. " But they are not very well represented in the politburo right now.”
Meanwhile, at home Vietnam is preparing for the long haul. On Monday the National Assembly passed a plan to spend $760 million to support fishermen and coast guards.
The money will be used to buy equipment for patrols and build offshore fishing vessels for the Vietnam Coast Guard, the Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance Force and fishermen.
This includes construction of 3,000 steel-clad fishing boats, Tran Cao Muu, General Secretary of the Vietnam Fisheries Association said. The current fleet of around 100,000 boats are made of wood.
He said policies to exploit resources in Vietnamese waters are not new, but the issue has become “hotter” following China’s aggressive actions in the sea.
Vietnam has accused China of ramming its ships over 1,400 times, once causing a fishing boat to sink.
Despite the increased dangers, Muu said Vietnam's fishing ships were operating as normal in the sea.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Seato
June 11, 2014 5:36 PM
Those puppets in Hanoi should join the Philippines and take China to the International Court of Arbitration and form strategic alliance with Japan and America without delay.Your selfishness and reluctance would give the Chinese more impetus to push ahead with the conquest of South China Sea.Any collaboration and concession to China would deem you as traitors and you would one day pay a dear price for your treacherous acts
In Response

by: yamato from: boston
June 12, 2014 1:13 AM
I am laughing at viets. China has taken the case to the UN! And viets have nothing for building a 'legal case', only lies!

by: Roberto from: U.S.A.
June 11, 2014 4:56 PM
Viet Nam is the most vulnerable country in the mix of neighbors the China government is attempting to intimidate. Japan is at the other end of the spectrum.
Viet Nam needs to continue to appeal to and cooperate with other nations, and internationalize itself as a counter to its self-imposed isolation, an isolation the China government is depending on.

by: Michael from: Henderson, NV
June 11, 2014 3:38 PM
I believe that it is a brilliant move on the side of the United States Navy to allow China to participate in war-games exercises off of Hawaii. China is going through gigantic growing pains as a nation and hopefully they will learn quickly, for all concerned nations in dispute with them, that dominating by "military force" is not the smartest way to go. The Chinese are ferocious business people.
In Response

by: Trung from: VN
June 13, 2014 5:10 AM
Tow 1 to Hainan, re-engineer and build many more.
In Response

by: LiveFree from: USA
June 12, 2014 9:58 PM
That's fine. Just want to make sure locking the US ships down with huge anchors at night or they will disappear by the morning.

by: victor from: USA
June 11, 2014 3:18 PM
The International court and the 1982 UNSLOS rules are weapons for weak countries as Vietnam, Philippine and South east asian countries.
Vietnamese people wonder why their goverment is too slow to sue China to the international court. While many Vietnamese fishermen and boats was sank by collision of China illegal ships for many years.
Many people in country think that China back for Vietnamese Communist leaders (money and power) as they support for Maoist rebels in India country. Only difference that is Indian goverment fought back and clean up all of them.

by: Thi buoi from: USA
June 11, 2014 11:15 AM
Do not understand why VN ,wait for what?why not take china to internasonal court for legal action?
In Response

by: Trung
June 17, 2014 8:23 AM
@johnnyha ...
It is not about the past, it is more about the presence.
Vietnam is being controlled and robbed by thugs, 3 million of them.
In Response

by: kenwheeler from: Ixtapa, Mexico
June 12, 2014 12:46 PM
Because the Vietnamese Communists (VC) are in control of Vietnam. The Vietcong are more fearful for their own survival than for the loss of territory (land, or sea) to the Chinese Communists. General Phung Quang Thanh, Secretary of Defense even tried to appease the Chinese Communists when he compared the present dispute to a disagreement between family members!

The VC has been blessed by Chinese Communists (CC) from the early days (in the 1940s) of the Communist movement in Vietnam. In order for the VC to survive they have to stay on the same side with the Chinese Communists. That's why they have always tried to be "friends" with the CC. Now the Chinese Communists don't seem to care about their Vietnamese Communist brothers. That's why the CC stationed their oil rig right at the THROAT of the Vietcong. It seems that the CC are ready to response by force if the Vietcong attack first. The Vietcong know that their Navy is no match for the Chinese Navy, that's why the Vietcong are trying to make friend with other nations (including the US) to solve their problem with China.

So far, no country is willing to FIGHT China for the Vietcong, besides their COMMENTING about China's aggression! This is the main problem for Viet Nam right now. Vietnamese, regardless of their differences should be aware HOW to effectively protect Viet Nam from foreign invasion, as well as WHO is responsible for China's invasion of Vietnam territory.
In Response

by: Thuy from: USA
June 12, 2014 12:36 PM
In my opinion, the dispute is a good chance for Vietnam to reform the country. The goverment should change its policy to China, and open to democracy movements.
The only way Vietnam can face China is to build a country like Japan. It will take years, hundred years........ But we need to think about it now and to start from now.

Think a big vision for our country.
In Response

by: Anonymous
June 12, 2014 1:09 AM
Vietnamese people should put more pressure on their Socialist government to file for legal action soon. Otherwise, they should revolt!
In Response

by: sunta from: usa
June 12, 2014 12:18 AM
the Vietcong had never been at school. They come from Jungle, under ground at cu chi or Dien bien phu. now they run the country to the hell. They are good to fight to their own people.
In Response

by: johnnyha from: usa
June 11, 2014 9:34 PM
hey is my comment ???
if you are Vietnamese supports Vietnam
what happen in the past let in be......
thank you
In Response

by: hh from: ccc
June 11, 2014 9:01 PM
because the sea is belong to china.
In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
June 11, 2014 7:09 PM
Oh, viet cong is waiting for more money from China, once it's appetite is satisfied, it will retreat and leave China alone like every time.
In Response

by: Nukusino from: usa
June 11, 2014 6:02 PM
The Vietnamese communists still in love with Chinese benefits; there are lands to sell, women to export, money under table to take, natural resources to transfer. The VN communists will do anything to stay in power as long as possible from fathers to sons just like their northern masters. But the Vietnamese people will respond to their government accordingly; No traitors will be escaped the firing swat. LET IT BE KNOWN !
In Response

by: Anonymous
June 11, 2014 2:53 PM
Wait for China to withdraw from the sea. The Vietnamese officials think like babies.

by: jonathan huang from: canada
June 11, 2014 11:12 AM
clearly viet cong is the most isolated one in this dispute. most of other countries are still looking to china to boost their economy. Laos, Burma, Cambodia are chinas close friends. Thailand is always watching out viet expansionism. Viets traditional ally russia has to pick china to solve its own situation and russia just made a huge gas deal with china. viet cant rely on russia any more. europe is looking for chinese money to save its crisis.
as for america, hum, viet cong has to kill itself before asking for any help. lol
In Response

by: Adam9 from: Dong Nai, VN
June 13, 2014 6:24 AM
I am a provincial school teacher of a poor country. I have had a dream of visiting the statue of Liberty and New York City before I die.
America is good-guy! (good-guy being used here as an adjective)
In Response

by: Jeffrey from: AA Dip Club
June 12, 2014 6:27 AM
I work at this African Asian Dip Club (at an undisclosed location) in NY City. I can tell you that China makes new friends all the time.
Just last weekend, I heard conversations:
-You, a friend of China now?
-Yes, we are, China wants many friends.
-Oh, so sorry to hear but you will be eaten by them, your honor.
In Response

by: JimMo from: USA
June 12, 2014 1:24 AM
War will break out before the international court rule out the dispute. I definitely agree that Burma, Laos, Cambodia
will not want to be a part of the dispute between China and Vietnam. They know exactly that Vietnam wanted to move west, swallowing Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand while China spent million dollars to build infrastructure for them. Vietnam expansion ideology will cut short soon.
In Response

by: Reader from: USA
June 11, 2014 3:40 PM
What are you trying to say? China monopolizes asia? The bullying trait needs to stop!
In Response

by: LiveFree from: USA
June 11, 2014 3:27 PM
Really, China has friends? I thought that China ate all her friends long ago. Ah! new friends ... Good luck, new friends.

by: So So from: US
June 11, 2014 10:37 AM
Vietnam will not drop its opposition to the Chinese operation in the disputed areas. Vietnam will continue to send boats out to harass the drilling now and any future drilling in the disputed area. Vietnam will go the legal route by taking the dispute case to international courts. So the disputed areas will remain in disputes for a long time to come.
In Response

by: So So
June 12, 2014 7:18 AM
That is if Vietnam can some how keep those islands, owing them (and they are no longer in dispute.)
In Response

by: So So from: US
June 12, 2014 7:04 AM
I still think meanbill has made a good point.
-- Unless Vietnam can, some how, throw the Chinese off the Paracels and keep the islands.
-- And remember this: UN is just a club of nations, UN is not a supper nation.
In Response

by: Roberto from: U.S.
June 11, 2014 5:02 PM
The legal point is amazingly complex, given the density of the region and heavy sea traffic in the areas that the China government is forcing into dispute.
The point is, the China government is attempting to bully its neighbors, and the neighbors are understandably responding in every way that they can.
The rest of the sovereign nations of the world need to loudly object to this bullyism, so that the China government realizes that it cannot bully the rest of the world as it has so brutally done to its own people for so many years.
In Response

by: Pepot from: USA
June 11, 2014 3:18 PM
Mr. Meanbill did not know the problems in South China Sea caused by China.For your information Sir, China is swallowing the South China Sea disregarding the 200 Exclusive Economic Zone provided by the United Nation provided to countries to exploit existing natural resources from their coast line.China had gone far beyond the limit.China is deaf, blind and keep bullying, harassing Vietnam and the Philippines ships and keep saying Peace and Stability in the region while doing another.It is actually China who is undermining peace and stability.
In Response

by: So So from: US
June 11, 2014 12:55 PM
@meanbill ... Good point!

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
June 11, 2014 11:29 AM
TRUTH BE TOLD -- Vietnam hasn't a legal leg to stand on this dispute in any court, and can only seek world opinions to help China change the facts, -- (AN UNDENIABLE FACT?) -- (the Chinese claim is legal under any "Law of the Sea"), and the US and China arbitrarily imposed their own EEZ sea boundaries.... (and there's no laws under the UN Charter that is, or was violated)...
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