Thursday, 15 May 2014

Tensions Running High In South China Sea

Sea turtles, cannons, and arrests: What's going on in the South China Sea?

Two incidents over disputed territory in the South China Sea this week threaten to disrupt the tense status quo between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors.


In Vietnam, China's dispatch of a state-owned oil rig into waters close to Vietnam sparked a face-off between Chinese and Vietnamese ships and anti-China protests. In the Philippines, China is protesting the detention of a Chinese fishing boat filled with illegal sea turtles and the arrest of its crew.

While the region has been home to competing territorial claims for centuries, increasingly assertive action by both China and its neighbors has raised concerns that more serious conflict could erupt.

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Singapore, US kick off joint military exercise in South China Sea
The naval forces of Singapore and United States will carry out joint exercises in the international waters of the South China Sea as part of this year's Exercise CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training), which begins on Tuesday (July 29)

Vice-Admiral Robert Thomas of the US Navy (USN) Seventh Fleet said the joint exercises are in line with America's "rebalancing" of forces in the Asia-Pacific and its commitment to freedom of access on the seas in the region. The USN's warships and aircraft will work together with the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) during the joint exercise.

Commenting on the tensions in the South China Sea between China and regional countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam, Vice-Admiral Thomas said while the Chinese Navy will likely carry out further operations there, the USN priorities operational readiness in the region, including offering its resources to aid in humanitarian efforts.

He said he "did not want to speculate" on what would warrant US military intervention in the region.


Hanoi, Manila urge world to condemn China’s actions

Vietnam’s Prime Minister yesterday called on the world to condemn China for causing what he called an extremely dangerous situation in a disputed area of the South China Sea.

In a rare public show of unity, Mr Nguyen Tan Dung, standing beside Philippine President Benigno Aquino after they held talks in Manila, said both countries would strengthen defence cooperation and were determined to oppose Chinese violations of international law.

Mr Dung cited Beijing’s deployment of an oil rig on May 1 in waters near the Paracel Islands also claimed by Hanoi, saying China’s moves had seriously threatened peace.

related: Vietnam, Philippines jointly denounce China's maritime moves

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Vietnam violence throws snag for US plans in Asia
The outbreak of deadly anti-China protests in Vietnam raises the stakes for the United States, which has rallied behind Beijing's neighbors but faces ugly new realities

Demonstrations have spread to a third of Vietnam's provinces, with workers attacking Chinese workers and factories, in a wave of nationalist outrage after Beijing moved a deep-water drilling rig into waters claimed by Hanoi.

The escalation came despite months of US cajoling for an easing of tensions in the myriad disputes in the South China Sea and a separate conflict between China and US ally Japan in the East China Sea.

President Barack Obama has put a high priority on building relations with Southeast Asia, seeing the region as economically dynamic and eager for warmer US relations faced with China's rise.

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Philippines and Vietnam urged to unite vs China over sea dispute

As the dispute escalates between China and its neighbor countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, over the South China Sea, cause-oriented groups will take to the streets this Friday to protest China’s aggression.

US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE), Di Ka Pasisiil Movement, Filipinos Unite, and Akbayan-Youth urged Filipinos to join Vietnamese nationals in a protest against China’s territorial intrusion. Since China deployed a deep-water drilling rig in the disputed South China Sea, protests erupted in Vietnam.

“It is with great urgency that I ask the Filipinos to join Vietnamese community here in the Philippines in expressing our anger and disgust at this very, very Hitlerian impetus of China,” Loida Nicolas-Lewis, USP4GG chair, told reporters in a press briefing Wednesday.

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The $1 billion Chinese oil rig that has Vietnam in flames

Early Wednesday, protesters began looting and burning factories at industrial parks near Ho Chi Minh City, in what is being called the worst outbreak of public disorder in Vietnam for years. Up to 20,000 people had been involved in relatively peaceful protests on Tuesday in Binh Duong province, according to the Associated Press, but smaller groups of men later ran into foreign-owned factories and caused mayhem.


Although some of the factories were owned by companies from Taiwan and South Korea, they were not thought to be the real target of the protesters' anger. That prize belongs to China and its now-infamous "nine-dash line."


The protests were sparked when Beijing deployed an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam on May 1. The Haiyang Shiyou 981 now sits about 70 miles inside the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that extends 200 miles from the Vietnamese shore as part of the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.


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China vows to keep operating oil rig opposed by Vietnam

A top Chinese general vowed Thursday his country would protect an oil rig in waters contested by Hanoi and ensure that it continued to operate despite angry protests in Vietnam.

Chinese People's Liberation Army Chief of the General Staff General Fang Fenghui speaks at the Pentagon on May 15, 2014:

"What we're going to do is ensure the safety of the oil rig and ensure the operation will keep going on."
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China Offers Its Side of Story in Sea Dispute With Vietnam


China acknowledged on Thursday it had used a water cannon against Vietnamese vessels in a dispute in the South China Sea, but denied that Chinese Navy ships were present.

At a special briefing to present its side of the case in the dispute over Beijing operating a new deep water oil rig in waters claimed by both China and Vietnam, a Foreign Ministry official said: “Water cannons are the most gentle measure we can take in trying to keep the other side out.”

The official, Yi Xianliang, deputy director general of the department of boundary and ocean affairs, said China had dispatched government and civilian vessels to the area, not military, and he dismissed a question from a reporter about whether Chinese Navy boats were present as “unprofessional.” He declined to say how many ships China had dispatched.

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China asserts right to drill in disputed sea as stand-off mounts

China insisted yesterday it had every right to drill for oil off Vietnam’s coast and warned its neighbour to immediately leave the area around the deep-sea rig where Chinese and Vietnamese ships are engaged in a tense stand-off.

With the ships jostling each other since China deployed the rig last weekend in disputed South China Sea waters, the United States warned both sides to de-escalate tensions and urged China to clarify its claims to the territory.

The stalemate underlines the apparently intractable nature of many of China’s territorial disputes with its neighbours. The ship stand-off — with both sides accusing the other of ramming ships — has raised the possibility of a conflict in the South China Sea’s most serious incident in years.

related:
ASEAN urges self-restraint in disputes with China
Face-off between Vietnamese, Chinese vessels raises tensions in South China Sea

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China insists it has right to put rig off Vietnam

China insisted Thursday it had every right to drill for oil off Vietnam's coast and warned its neighbor to leave the area around the deep-sea rig where Chinese and Vietnamese ships are engaged in a tense standoff.

With the ships jostling each other since China deployed the rig last weekend in disputed South China Sea waters, the United States warned both sides to de-escalate tensions and urged China to clarify its claims to the territory.

The stalemate underlines the apparently intractable nature of many of China's territorial disputes with its neighbors and the ship standoff -- with both sides accusing the other of ramming ships -- has raised the possibility of a conflict in the South China Sea's most serious incident in years.

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Confrontations Raise Stakes in South China Sea

A naval confrontation between China and Vietnam over Chinese attempts to anchor a giant oil rig in disputed waters is by far the most serious episode in recent years between the two historically entwined neighbors.

Unlike the Philippines, which has launched a simultaneous challenge to China's assertive behavior in the South China Sea by detaining a Chinese fishing boat and its crew, Vietnam has a potent military.

To be sure, the Vietnamese navy—much of it dating from the Soviet era—is no match for China's modern fleets. As far back as 1974, Chinese forces were able to grab the Paracel Islands off Vietnam's coast, and another skirmish in the area in 1988 led to the deaths of dozens of Vietnamese sailors. The two countries have the most extensive claims among the disputing parties to the South China Sea and its rich natural resources.


‘US has no right’: China responds to comments over its $1 billion rig in S. China Sea
China National Offshore Oil Corporation's (CNOOC) oil rig in China's Bohai Sea is seen in this file photograph taken January 21, 2005. (Reuters)

China has sharply responded to US comments regarding the oil rig Beijing is setting up in the South China Sea. The $1 billion rig sparked a new row with Vietnam blaming China for intentionally ramming its vessels in a disputed area.

"The United States has no right to complain about China's activities within the scope of its own sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at the daily briefing on Wednesday.

The statement was made in response to the US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki’s comment in which she criticized “China's decision to operate its oil rig in disputed waters” and called it“provocative and unhelpful to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region.


China 'determined' to change status quo in South China Sea
The dispute began when a state-owned Chinese company placed a deep sea drilling rig in disputed waters south of the Paracel Islands

Tensions are rising in Southeast Asia as Vietnam claims two of its ships were rammed by Chinese vessels in disputed waters. The row shows China is hardening its stance on maritime disputes, says analyst Gregory Poling.


The confrontation began on May 2 when the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation placed its deep sea drilling rig HD-981 in disputed waters of the South China Sea. As Vietnam objected, China deployed some 80 ships, including seven military vessels, along with aircraft to support the rig. Hanoi reacted by dispatching 29 ships to attempt to disrupt the rig's placement and operations. The situation escalated five days later, when Hanoi reported Chinese vessels used water cannon and rammed several Vietnamese patrol ships, injuring six crew members and damaging some of the ships. China claims a large part of the South China Sea and rejects rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

In a DW interview, Gregory Poling, a fellow with the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at the Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) says the incident is likely to increase solidarity amongst ASEAN members. But it also shows that Beijing is determined to change the status quo in the South China Sea - regardless of the complaints or actions of neighboring states.



China Answers Obama

Less than a week after President Obama's Asian Reassurance Tour, Beijing offered its rejoinder, sending a flotilla of 80 military and civilian ships to install China's first oil rig in disputed South China Sea waters, well within Vietnam's 200-mile exclusive economic zone. When some 30 Vietnamese naval vessels demanded the rig's withdrawal on Sunday, China's ships responded by ramming several of the Vietnamese boats and injuring six sailors.

This skirmish hasn't escalated to gunfire or attempted boarding, but the two sides are still facing off at sea. "Vietnam has exercised restraint," said a senior Vietnamese commander Wednesday, "but if Chinese vessels continue ramming Vietnamese ships, we'll have to act out of self-defense." Beijing said Thursday it would negotiate only if Hanoi's ships leave the site. The Foreign Ministry says the $1 billion rig—located 225 miles south of mainland China and only 120 miles east of Vietnam—is "normal and legal."

The truth is that this is China's latest attempt to revise the East Asian status quo through intimidation and force. China claims sovereignty over some 90% of the 1.35-million-square-mile South China Sea, and it is staking that claim by flexing its muscle around the sea's outer reaches. Along the eastern edge, China seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012. Since March it has blockaded Philippine Marines on Second Thomas Shoal.


US threatens China over territorial disputes, cites sanctions on Russia as example
A handout photo shows two Chinese surveillance ships which sailed between a Philippines warship and eight Chinese fishing boats to prevent the arrest of any fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal, a small group of rocky formations whose sovereignty is contested by the Philippines and China, in the South China Sea, about 124 nautical miles off the main island of Luzon April 10, 2012. (Reuters)

The US gave a strong warning to China not to escalate territorial tensions in the Asia-Pacific region if it doesn’t want to face American retaliation. In his statement, a US official used sanctions on Russia over Crimea’s accession as an example.

Although it’s difficult to gauge China’s response at this point, more pressure needs to be brought to bear for them to abide by diplomatic principles for settling territorial disputes, came the advice from the US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, Daniel Russel, speaking to a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Regarding how to make China comply, the top official had a ready solution, saying that the recent sanctions imposed by the US and EU on Russia should have “a chilling effect on anyone in China who might contemplate the Crimea annexation as a model,” Reuters reports.


Why China is putting an oil rig off Vietnam coast


China has towed a deep sea drilling rig to a spot off Vietnam's coast in waters claimed by both. The rig has been escorted by a reported 70 Chinese craft that have rammed Vietnamese ships and fended them off with water cannons, raising tensions between the nations to their highest in years.

Why is China doing this? A: China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has begun acting on announced plans to drill for what is thought to be a wealth of oil and natural gas beneath those waters. The moves may also be a test of Vietnam's ability and resolve to defend its own claims, along with Washington's insistence on freedom of navigation there.

Where is the rig? A: China has placed its oil rig about 130 nautical miles off Vietnam's coast in waters already identified by Hanoi for exploration but not yet offered to foreign petroleum companies. Vietnam argues the territory is clearly within its continental shelf. China's argument is based on its historic claim to most of the South China Sea and on the rig's proximity to nearby Paracel Islands, which are also disputed.


China Thwarts U.S. 'Containment' With Vietnam Oil Rig Standoff

Two weeks ago on his trip to Asia, President Obama drew another red line, declaring that a group of islands, claimed by both Japan and China, were covered by America’s security treaty with Japan. In the Philippines, Obama inked a 10-year agreement to increase U.S. forces there.

Though the president made a point of not visiting China on what some dubbed a “China containment tour,” he insisted “We’re not interested in containing China.”

The Chinese don’t appear to believe him. This week Beijing decided to assert its aggression in the region.

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Chinese Oil Rig Operations Near the Paracel Islands

China’s decision to introduce an oil rig accompanied by numerous government vessels for the first time in waters disputed with Vietnam is provocative and raises tensions. This unilateral action appears to be part of a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region.

We are also very concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by vessels operating in this area. We call on all parties to conduct themselves in a safe and professional manner, preserve freedom of navigation, exercise restraint, and address competing sovereignty claims peacefully and in accordance with international law.

Sovereignty over the Paracel Islands is disputed; this incident is occurring in waters claimed by Vietnam and China near those islands. These events highlight the need for claimants to clarify their claims in accordance with international law, and to reach agreement on appropriate behavior and activities in disputed areas.

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In the South China Sea, China Is Already Acting Like a Superpower

As Beijing appears to be openly enforcing territorial claims in the South China Sea, following a skirmish with Vietnam over a Chinese oil rig that left six people injured, one expert says a historic "moment of confrontation" has arrived

Supposedly fraternal ties between China and Vietnam failed to keep hostilities from bubbling to the surface this week, when vessels from both nations tangled near a Chinese oil rig that Hanoi claims is planning to illegally drill into the country’s continental shelf.

At least six people were injured during the skirmish on May 7, after Chinese vessels used water cannon on, and rammed into, Vietnamese craft that Hanoi had dispatched to prevent drilling from going ahead.

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China dispute with Vietnam escalates as rioters torch foreign-owned factories
Governments' disagreement stems from China's placement of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters

Mobs of rioters in Vietnam torched at least 15 foreign-owned factories and trashed or looted many more following a large protest by workers against China's recent placement of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters, officials said Wednesday.

The unrest at industrial parks close to Ho Chi Minh City built to attract foreign investors is the most serious outbreak of public disorder in the tightly controlled country in years. It points to the dangers for the government as it manages public anger at China while also protesting itself against the Chinese actions in an area of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam.

The unrest late Tuesday at a Singapore-run industrial park and others nearby in Binh Duong province followed protests by up to 20,000 workers. Smaller groups attacked factories they believed were Chinese-run, but many were Taiwanese or South Korean, the provincial government said in a statement.

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Vietnam mobs burn and loot foreign factories in anti-China protest

Tens of thousands of anti-Chinese demonstrators have smashed and burned foreign factories in Vietnam amid growing anger at Beijing’s increasingly aggressive claims to own the South China Sea.


Workers in southern Vietnam broke through gates and set fire to at least 15 factories late on Tuesday in a fourth day of protests against recent Chinese incursions into sea that is also claimed by Hanoi.

Witnesses said that rioters mistakenly attacked premises owned by companies from Taiwan and South Korea, as well as China, in a rare explosion of public rage in the tightly controlled communist dictatorship.


Thousands of Anti-China Protesters Set Factories on Fire in Vietnam

Workers looted goods and attacked offices in a rare outburst of public unrest Tuesday in the authoritarian communist nation. (Photo credit: Nguyet Trieu/ Vnexpress)

Anti-China protesters set more than a dozen factories on fire in Vietnam, state media said Wednesday, in an escalating backlash against Beijing's deployment of an oil rig in contested waters.

Workers looted goods and attacked offices in a rare outburst of public unrest Tuesday in the authoritarian communist nation, which allowed mass anti-China rallies around Vietnam at the weekend.

The protesters targeted manufacturing companies that are owned or managed by Chinese as well as Chinese workers in Binh Duong province, the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park said in a statement.

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Beijing warns Washington against fueling maritime provocation

Describing Washington's latest remarks on the South China Sea as "inspiring belligerency," Beijing has reportedly urged US to stop fueling maritime provocation.

According to China Daily, China's foreign Minister Wang Yi told Kerry in a telephone conversation that China wanted the US to "stop fueling provocations by relevant parties". Wang said that Beijing urged Washington to stand firmly by its previous commitments, be cautious in words and actions and observe the maritime situation around China in an objective and fair manner.

Earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry had said that China's use of an oil rig in its territorial waters was provocative.

related: China may be building airstrip on reef in disputed sea, warns Philippines

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Vietnam, Philippines, China Bare Their Teeth in the South China Sea

Strains between China and its neighbors have burst to the surface in two parts of the South China Sea, complicating high-stakes arguments over who should control the area’s waters with new friction.

Off Vietnam, dozens of Chinese military and civilian ships clashed with the Vietnamese coast guard, with Vietnamese officials complaining its vessels were repeatedly rammed. On the same day, Philippine police apprehended Chinese fishing vessels loaded with hundreds of sea turtles in disputed waters.

About 80 Chinese vessels moved into an area near the disputed Paracel Islands, where Hanoi has sought to prevent China from deploying a massive oil rig, said Rear Adm. Ngo Ngoc Thu, vice commander of the Vietnamese coast guard. He said the flotilla included seven military ships and that it was supported by aircraft. He said the situation, which started brewing over the weekend, was “very tense” and said six Vietnamese officers had been injured in the standoff.

related: Confrontations Raise Stakes in South China Sea

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China, Vietnam, Philippines collide amid escalating South China Sea tensions


Tensions escalated in the South China Sea region this week after China, Vietnam and the Philippines were involved in a series of potentially explosive confrontations over disputed territory.


Vietnamese officials say Chinese military and civilian ships have been intimidating their vessels near the Paracel Islands -- which are controlled by Beijing but claimed by Hanoi -- since Sunday, even accusing the Chinese of repeatedly ramming into them and shooting water cannons.

But China blames Vietnam for forcefully disrupting drilling activities, and demand that it withdraw all vessels from the area, said Yi Xianliang, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs in a press briefing yesterday.

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SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTE HEATS UP; CHINA SENDS FIGHTER JETS TO PROTECT OIL RIG IN VIETNAMESE WATERS

Vietnam yesterday accused China of despatching fighter jets to protect an oil rig in contested South China Sea waters. Over the weekend, two groups of Chinese military aircraft flew over Vietnamese ships tasked with preventing the rig from drilling, Vice-Commander and Chief of Staff of Vietnam’s Coast Guard Ngo Ngoc Thu told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, AFP reported.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday the disputes were not “a problem between China and ASEAN”. “The Chinese side is always opposed to certain countries’ attempts to use the South (China) Sea issue to harm the overall friendship and cooperation between China and ASEAN,” it said, in apparent reference to Vietnam and the Philippines.

China will work with ASEAN to continue implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was agreed upon in 2002, the ministry added. AGENCIES

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China and Vietnam at Impasse Over Rig in South China Sea

China and Vietnam appear to have reached at least a temporary impasse over a giant drilling rig sent by a state-controlled Chinese oil company to a site in the South China Sea between the Vietnamese coastline and a cluster of disputed islands, as the confrontation has continued to raise thorny issues of international law.

Col. Pham Quang Oanh, deputy chairman of the political department of Vietnam’s Coast Guard, said that as many as 15 Chinese ships had sprayed a Vietnamese vessel at the site with water cannons on Monday. He denied a report in Vietnamese news media that the vessel had used water cannons to fire back.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam asked fellow leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at a summit meeting for support in confronting China. But the government of Myanmar, the host of the meeting, issued only an oblique statement on Monday expressing “serious concern” over the developments in the South China Sea, without mentioning China by name.

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Vietnam Protesters Torch Chinese Factories over Territorial Dispute

Protesters in southern Vietnam have set fire to several Chinese factories over Beijing's decision to locate an oil rig in waters of the South China Sea also claimed by Hanoi.

The unrest began Tuesday in southern Binh Duong province, where thousands of workers walked out of their jobs and took part in mass anti-China rallies.

Video posted on social media showed large numbers of Vietnamese in work uniforms in front of factories with Chinese names, waving national flags, honking their motorbike horns and chanting anti-China slogans.

related:
Kerry: China's Oil Rig in South China Sea 'Provocative'
Emotions Running High in Vietnam Over China Dispute

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US and China War Of Words Erupts

US and China war of words erupts over the recent tensions between Beijing and its neighbors about disputed territory in the South China Sea

Beijing claims a U-shaped swathe of the South China Sea that covers areas other South East Asian nations say are their territory.

“John Kerry said China’s introduction of an oil rig and numerous government vessels in waters disputed with Vietnam was provocative,”

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, referring to a telephone call between the US secretary of state and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, according to South China Morning Post report.

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South China Sea tensions rise after collision

Territorial disputes between Hanoi and Beijing have led to public anger [File photo: Reuters]
Vietnam has accused China of attacking its ships in the South China Sea, waters that have become a source of friction between the regional giant and its neighbours.

The Foreign Ministry in Hanoi said on Wednesday that the collisions caused considerable damage to the Vietnamese ships, Reuters news agency reported.

"On May 4, Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels," said Tran Duy Hai, a Foreign Ministry official.

related:
Should China be 'contained'?
Ship attempts to ease South China Sea tension
China and Vietnam to ease maritime tensions

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The battle for the South China Sea
Who owns the world's busiest shipping lane and what lies below the surface that is causing growing tensions

Six countries are all scrambling for the South China Sea. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia are all making claims to it.

But why now? China estimates there could be up to 213 billion barrels of oil beneath the sea. This would mean China would have the world's second-largest proven oil reserves, just falling behind Saudi Arabia, which has 264 billion barrels.

There are also estimates of up to two quadrillion cubic feet of hydrocarbon natural gas.

related:


Infographic: Island row around China

Al Jazeera looks at the dispute over islands in East China Sea and South China Sea between China and its neighbours.


Chinese and Vietnamese ships collide, Philippines seizes vessel
An aerial view shows the Pagasa (Hope) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines. (Reuters Photo)

China's relations with Vietnam and Philippines came under severe strain on Wednesday after a mid-sea collision between ships and seizure of a Chinese vessel near disputed islands off the Philippine coast.

Vietnam's naval ships and Chinese vessels collided in the South China Sea after a Chinese attempt to establish an oil rig in an area claimed by both countries, according to Vietnamese officials. The Vietnamese navy intervened to prevent it.

Vietnamese officials claimed Chinese ships intentionally rammed their vessels and used water cannons at the country's naval men. This is the first time China has tried to establish an oil rig and start drilling in the disputed area only 193km from Vietnam's coast.

related:
Will defend every inch of territory, China warns neighbours
Growing concern with China's behavior at sea: US diplomat
US faces Chinese ire over disputed isles
China’s continued policy of aggrandizement

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U.S. says concerned about China-Vietnam incident

Tensions are brewing in the South China Sea where Beijing has demanded the Philippines release a Chinese fishing boat and its crew and Vietnam claimed a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed two of its ships

The United States said on Wednesday it was concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation in the South China Sea after reports of a Chinese vessel ramming Vietnamese ships. It called for restraint on all sides.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated the U.S. view that China's deployment of an oil rig in a disputed part of the South China was "provocative and unhelpful" to security in the region.

"We are strongly concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by vessels in the disputed area," she told a regular news briefing.

related: South China Sea tensions rise as Vietnam says China rammed ships

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China condemns Vietnamese 'harassment' of ship in disputed waters

China has warned Vietnam not to disturb activities of Chinese companies operating near disputed islands in the South China Sea, after Hanoi condemned as illegal the movement of a giant Chinese oil rig into what it says is its territorial water.

The United States on Tuesday sharply criticized the movement of the deep sea oil rig, calling it "provocative and unhelpful to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region".

The relocation of the oil rig by China's state-run oil company is the latest show of Beijing's growing assertiveness, which is raising alarm among smaller countries in the region.



Vietnam/China: Chinese Oil Rig Operations Near the Paracel Islands

China’s decision to introduce an oil rig accompanied by numerous government vessels for the first time in waters disputed with Vietnam is provocative and raises tensions. This unilateral action appears to be part of a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region.

We are also very concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by vessels operating in this area. We call on all parties to conduct themselves in a safe and professional manner, preserve freedom of navigation, exercise restraint, and address competing sovereignty claims peacefully and in accordance with international law.

Sovereignty over the Paracel Islands is disputed; this incident is occurring in waters claimed by Vietnam and China near those islands. These events highlight the need for claimants to clarify their claims in accordance with international law, and to reach agreement on appropriate behavior and activities in disputed areas.


The Philippines' strategic dilemma: Between an eagle and a dragon
During his visit to the Philippines, Obama signed a new security pact giving the US access to its former military bases [EPA]

The highlight of Obama's Asia visit was certainly the Philippines (April 28-29), where he celebrated the formalisation of a new security pact, the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Under the new defence agreement, the US has gained inexpensive, convenient access to Philippine bases. After two decades of absence, US troops can finally re-access the Subic and Clark bases, Washington's two biggest overseas military outposts during the Cold War era.

Desperate to stave off China's growing territorial assertiveness in the South China Sea, the Philippine government was quick to hail the EDCA as a concrete manifestation of a deepening military alliance between the Philippines and its principle ally, the US. But critics were quick to dismiss the deal as a strategic blunder, which will further increase the Philippines' dependence on Washington and fuel an already combustible dynamic in the South China Sea, with Beijing lambasting the new basing agreement as a component of the US-led allege encirclement strategy against China. 

Historically, the US has served as the backbone of the Philippines' national security. Throughout the Cold War, the Philippines represented a critical ally against Soviet expansionism in Asia. The eventual collapse of the Soviet Union (1991), however, sparked a nationalist-populist wave in the Philippines, as leading legislators called for the abrogation of the US military bases in the country.

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Philippines seizes Chinese boat in dispute
Release of fishermen sought after capture of boat with haul of endangered turtles in contested area of South China Sea

The Philippine government has seized a Chinese fishing boat and its 11 crewmen on charges of catching endangered sea turtles in disputed South China Sea waters, prompting China to demand their release.

The boat was loaded with more than 350 endangered turtles when it was seized on Tuesday near territory known as Half Moon Shoal, Philippine maritime authorities said.

China demanded on Wednesday said that the Philippines release the boat. A spokesman for Hua Chunying, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, urged the Philippine government to "stop taking further provocative actions".

related:


Territorial Disputes: Malignant and Benign

Some things are worth fighting for. What about a few desert islands occupied mainly by birds, goats and moles? China and Japan seem to think so, the rest of the world is alarmed and a look at other territorial disputes around the globe shows that stranger things have happened. There are about 60 such conflicts simmering worldwide. Most will bubble along, unresolved but harmless, 400 years after the Peace of Westphalia established the notion of national sovereignty. Others are more dangerous.

The Situation - China claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, where it has constructed artificial islands and built up its military presence. Five others — Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan — claim parts of the same maritime area, a thriving fishing zone through which more than $5 trillion of trade passes each year. In a case brought by the Philippines, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled against China in July, saying it had no historic rights to the resources within a dashed line drawn on a 1940s map that had formed the basis of its claims. While the court said the ruling was binding, China said the tribunal has no jurisdiction. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called for restraint and in October held talks with China on contested territory.

The U.S., the longtime guarantor of freedom of navigation in the waters, has stepped up support for Southeast Asian maritime law enforcement agencies and Indonesia has accused Chinese fishing boats of increasingly encroaching into its waters. One thousand miles to the northeast, in the East China Sea, China is in dispute with Japan over century-old claims to a separate set of islands — called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese — that have been administered by Japan since 1972. U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014 said a U.S.-Japan security treaty applies to the islands, meaning the U.S. military could act if Japanese waters were violated. Meantime, Donald Trump's election as U.S. president adds a new element of uncertainty. Trump has accused the Chinese of building a military fortress in the South China Sea and of doing so “at will because they have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country.” China is also locked in a disagreement with India over the two countries’ land border.

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