Lessons from Paracels X: Panda Protagonist Pt II

China's military maneurvres affecting neighbouring nations and region the past 40 years are centred on hydro-carbon deposits

China’s military maneurvres affecting neighbouring nations and region the past 40 years are centred on hydro-carbon deposits

Trouble is brewing in the South China Sea. The tension arisen from border dispute and China’s invasion of Paracel Islands forty years ago is heightened as China registered vessel is believed to has intentionally  rammed into Vietnamese Coast Guard patrol boats.

Reuters story:

Tensions mount between Vietnam and China in South China Sea

BY NGUYEN PHUONG LINH AND MICHAEL MARTINA
HANOI/BEIJING Wed May 7, 2014 7:35am EDT

China »
(Reuters) – Vietnam said on Wednesday a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed two of its ships in a part of the disputed South China Sea where Beijing has deployed a giant oil rig, sending tensions spiraling in the region.

The foreign ministry in Hanoi said the collisions took place on Sunday and caused considerable damage to the Vietnamese ships. Six people sustained minor injuries, it said.

“On May 4, Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels,” said Tran Duy Hai, a foreign ministry official and deputy head of Vietnam’s national border committee.

“Chinese ships, with air support, sought to intimidate Vietnamese vessels. Water cannon was used,” he told a news conference in Hanoi. Six other ships were also hit, other officials said, but not as badly.

Dozens of navy and coastguard vessels from both countries are in the area where China has deployed the giant rig, Vietnamese officials have said.

“No shots have been fired yet,” said a Vietnamese navy official, who could not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to media. “Vietnam won’t fire unless China fires first.”

The tensions between the two Communist nations come as both are trying to put aside border disputes and the memories of a brief but bloody border war in 1979. Vietnam is usually careful about public comments against China, with which it had bilateral trade surpassing $50 billion in 2013.

However, Hanoi has strongly condemned the operation of the drilling rig in what it says are its waters in the South China Sea, and told China’s state-run oil company CNOOC to remove it.

The United States has also criticized the move.

The row comes days after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Asia to underline his commitment to allies there, including Japan and the Philippines, both locked in territorial disputes with China.

Obama, promoting a strategic “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific region, also visited South Korea and Malaysia, but not China.

China has not yet responded to the Vietnamese allegations of ramming, but Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said earlier on Wednesday that the deployment of the rig had nothing to do with the United States, or Vietnam.

“The United States has no right to complain about China’s activities within the scope of its own sovereignty,” she said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

TENSIONS WITH PHILIPPINES

Tensions are also brewing in another part of the South China Sea where Beijing has demanded the Philippines release a Chinese fishing boat and its crew seized on Tuesday.

Chief Superintendent Noel Vargas of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group said a maritime police patrol apprehended a Chinese fishing boat around 7 a.m. on Tuesday off Half Moon Shoal in the Spratly Islands.

The boat has 11 crew and police found about 350 turtles in the vessel, some of which were already dead, a police report said, adding that a Philippine boat with crew was also seized, and found to have 70 turtles on board. Several species of sea turtles are protected under Philippine law.

Maritime police are now towing the boats to Puerto Princesa town on the island of Palawan where appropriate charges will be filed against them, Vargas said.

China said the Philippines had to release the boat and the fishermen.

“China’s Foreign Ministry and China’s ambassador to the Philippines have made representations to the Philippines side, demanding that it provide a rational explanation and immediately release the people and the vessel”, ministry spokeswoman Hua said.

“We once again warn the Philippines not to take any provocative actions,” she said, adding that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands.

There are frequent tensions in the South China Sea between China and the other claimant nations, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which say Beijing has harassed their ships in the waters there.

While there are frequent stand-offs between fishermen and the various claimant states in the South China Sea, the actual detention of Chinese fishermen or the seizure of a boat is rare.

NOT COMMERCIALLY DRIVEN

An oil industry official in China said the deployment of the rig owned by China’s CNOOC oil company to waters near Vietnam appeared to be a political decision rather than a commercial one.

“This reflected the will of the central government and is also related to the U.S. strategy on Asia,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“It is not commercially driven. It is also not like CNOOC has set a big exploration blueprint for the region.”

However, Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a government think-tank in the southern province of Hainan, said China was unlikely to pay much heed to Vietnamese concerns.

“If we stop our work there as soon as Vietnam shouts, China will not be able to achieve anything in the South China Sea,” Wu said.

“We have lost a precious opportunity to drill for oil and gas in the Spratlys. Also this time we are drilling in Xisha (Paracel Islands), not Nansha (Spratlys), there is no territorial dispute there. I think China will keep moving ahead with its plan (in Xisha), no matter what Vietnam says and does.”

Tran Duy Hai, the Vietnamese foreign ministry official, raised the possibility of Hanoi taking the dispute to international arbitration.

“We cannot exclude any measures, including international legal action, as long as it is peaceful.

“We are a peace-loving nation that has experienced many wars,” he said. “If this situation goes too far, we will use all measures in line with international law to protect our territory. We have limitations, but we will stand up to any Chinese aggression.”

The Philippines has already taken its dispute with China to an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Manuel Mogato in Manila and Charlie Zhu in Hong Kong; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

**********************

and BBC’s story:

7 May 2014 Last updated at 11:57

Vietnam and China ships ‘collide in South China Sea’

The Vietnamese navy says China used water cannons on their vessels in the South China Sea

Continue reading the main story

Vietnamese maritime police official Ngo Ngoc Thu told media in Hanoi on Wednesday that Chinese boats had collided with Vietnamese vessels three times since 3 May.

Continue reading the main story
Analysis

Nga Pham
BBC News
Details are sketchy, but there is no doubt that this is one of the highest escalations of tension in many years between the two neighbours.

China wants to establish an oil rig and start drilling soon in the area only 120 miles (193km) from Vietnam’s coast. This is the first time China has tried to explore the disputed waters between the two countries using its own rig and Vietnam does not want China to set a precedent.

Hanoi said it would do everything possible to protect its rights and does not rule out taking legal action against China at an international tribunal.

The US called China’s plan “provocative” and urged restraint from both sides. But with dozens of ships from both sides confronting each other in the area, any careless move could ignite a bigger and potentially much more damaging conflict.

Chinese officials said during a regular briefing on Wednesday that the oil rig was within China’s territorial waters.

“The disruptive activities by the Vietnamese side are in violation of China’s sovereign rights,” Hua Chunying said.

The incident came as Philippine police seized a Chinese fishing boat and detained its 11 crew in another disputed part of the South China Sea on Wednesday.

The boat carrying “large numbers of endangered species” was seized “to enforce maritime laws and to uphold Philippine sovereign rights”, the Philippine foreign ministry said in a statement.

‘Armed men’
China’s foreign ministry called the action provocative and demanded the immediate release of the fishermen, who have been taken to a Philippine port.

The Chinese fishing boat was being towed to shore and charges would be brought against the crew members, a Philippine maritime official told Reuters news agency.

China’s Xinhua state news agency said the fishing boat – named as Qiongqionghai 09063 – had been seized by an “unidentified armed vessel”.

“Several armed men forced themselves on to the boat and fired four or five shots in the air. They then took control of the boat,” Xinhua said.

China claims ownership of large parts of the South China Sea, including shoals and reefs, located off the coast of the Philippines.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, China and Taiwan all have competing claims in the region.

***********

Apparently, China tried to erect an oil rig in disputed area between China and Vietnam and Vietnamese authorities were in the area to stop them.

Associated Press story:

 

Vietnam Tries to Stop China Oil Rig Deployment

HANOI, Vietnam May 6, 2014 (AP)
By CHRIS BRUMMITT Associated Press

Chinese ships are ramming and spraying water cannons at Vietnamese vessels trying to stop Beijing from setting up an oil rig in the South China Sea, according to Vietnamese officials and video evidence Wednesday, a dangerous escalation of tensions in disputed waters considered a global flashpoint.

 

With neither side showing any sign of stepping down, the standoff raises the possibility that more serious clashes could break out. Vietnam said several boats have been damaged and six people on the vessels have been injured by broken glass.

 

Vietnam, which has no hope of standing up to China militarily, said it wants a peaceful solution and — unlike China — hadn’t sent any navy ships to areas close to the $1 billion deep sea rig. But a top official warned that “all restraint had a limit.”

 

“Our maritime police and fishing protection forces have practiced extreme restraint, we will continue to hold on there,” Ngo Ngoc Thu, vice commander of Vietnam’s coast guard, told a specially arranged news conference in Hanoi. “But if (the Chinese ships) continue to ram into us, we will respond with similar self-defense.”

 

China’s stationing of the oil rig, which was accompanied by a flotilla of military and civilian ships, on May 1 has been seen as one of its most provocative steps in a gradual campaign of asserting its sovereignty in the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.

 

Vietnam immediately dispatched marine police and fishery protection vessels to the area, but they were harassed as they approached, Thu said.

 

Video was shown at the news conference of Chinese ships ramming into Vietnamese ones and firing high-powered water cannons at them. Thu said such incidents had occurred repeatedly over the last three days. He said Vietnam had not carried out any offensive actions of its own in waters close to the rig, around 220 kilometers (140 miles) off the Vietnamese coast.

 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing Wednesday that the oil rig was in China’s territorial waters and therefore drilling is “normal and legal.” The country previously announced that no foreign ships would be allowed within a 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) radius of the rig.

 

“The disruptive activities by the Vietnamese side are in violation of China’s sovereign rights,” she said.

 

A Vietnamese official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity said earlier that Vietnam’s ships were outnumbered by the Chinese flotilla escorting the rig. He said the ships were trying to stop the rig from “establishing a fixed position” at the spot where it wanted to drill.

 

China’s assertiveness along with its growing military and economic might is alarming many smaller countries in the region even as they are aware they need to keep relations open with a vital trading partner. The United States, which is undertaking a military and economic “pivot” toward Asia in part to counter Chinese influence, shares the concerns of the smaller nations.

 

In a strongly worded statement in Washington on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called China’s action “provocative and unhelpful to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region.”

 

Asked about the U.S. statement, Hua said, “we want to tell the U.S. that the U.S. has no right to make irresponsible and unwarranted remarks on China’s sovereign rights.”

*************

This latest aggression by China is an extension of its projection of power, in the region. This could also be seen as China’s ‘Panda Gambit‘, to rest the reaction of international community, especially United States of America.

The report about the Philippines authorities boarded and arrested Chinese fishermen for ‘illegal fishing’ in territorial waters, defined as Pinoy’s EEZ under United Nations Convention Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS).

Meanwhile, analysts opined that China would not heed any calls by Vietnam nor the Philippines for aggression in disputed areas which under UNCLOS are EEZ territories of the two ASEAN nation, and back of.

Reuters story:

Vietnam and China face off in South China Sea

BY NGUYEN PHUONG LINH AND MICHAEL MARTINA
HANOI/BEIJING Wed May 7, 2014 8:18am EDT

China »
(Reuters) – Vietnam said on Wednesday a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed two of its ships in a part of the disputed South China Sea where Beijing has deployed a giant oil rig, sending tensions spiraling in the region.

The foreign ministry in Hanoi said the collisions took place on Sunday and caused considerable damage to the Vietnamese ships. Six people sustained minor injuries, it said.

“On May 4, Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels,” said Tran Duy Hai, a foreign ministry official and deputy head of Vietnam’s national border committee.

“Chinese ships, with air support, sought to intimidate Vietnamese vessels. Water cannon was used,” he told a news conference in Hanoi. Six other ships were also hit, other officials said, but not as badly.

Dozens of navy and coastguard vessels from both countries are in the area where China has deployed the giant rig, Vietnamese officials have said.

“No shots have been fired yet,” said a Vietnamese navy official, who could not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to media. “Vietnam won’t fire unless China fires first.”

The tensions between the two Communist nations come as both are trying to put aside border disputes and the memories of a brief but bloody border war in 1979. Vietnam is usually careful about public comments against China, with which it had bilateral trade surpassing $50 billion in 2013.

However, Hanoi has strongly condemned the operation of the drilling rig in what it says are its waters in the South China Sea, and told China’s state-run oil company CNOOC to remove it.

The United States has also criticized the move.

The row comes days after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Asia to underline his commitment to allies there, including Japan and the Philippines, both locked in territorial disputes with China.

Obama, promoting a strategic “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific region, also visited South Korea and Malaysia, but not China.

China has not yet responded to the Vietnamese allegations of ramming, but Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said earlier on Wednesday that the deployment of the rig had nothing to do with the United States, or Vietnam.

“The United States has no right to complain about China’s activities within the scope of its own sovereignty,” she said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

TENSIONS WITH PHILIPPINES

Tensions are also brewing in another part of the South China Sea where Beijing has demanded the Philippines release a Chinese fishing boat and its crew seized on Tuesday.

Chief Superintendent Noel Vargas of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group said a maritime police patrol apprehended a Chinese fishing boat around 7 a.m. on Tuesday off Half Moon Shoal in the Spratly Islands.

The boat has 11 crew and police found about 350 turtles in the vessel, some of which were already dead, a police report said, adding that a Philippine boat with crew was also seized, and found to have 70 turtles on board. Several species of sea turtles are protected under Philippine law.

Maritime police are now towing the boats to Puerto Princesa town on the island of Palawan where appropriate charges will be filed against them, Vargas said.

China said the Philippines had to release the boat and the fishermen.

“China’s Foreign Ministry and China’s ambassador to the Philippines have made representations to the Philippines side, demanding that it provide a rational explanation and immediately release the people and the vessel”, ministry spokeswoman Hua said.

“We once again warn the Philippines not to take any provocative actions,” she said, adding that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands.

There are frequent tensions in the South China Sea between China and the other claimant nations, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which say Beijing has harassed their ships in the waters there.

While there are frequent stand-offs between fishermen and the various claimant states in the South China Sea, the actual detention of Chinese fishermen or the seizure of a boat is rare.

NOT COMMERCIALLY DRIVEN

An oil industry official in China said the deployment of the rig owned by China’s CNOOC oil company to waters near Vietnam appeared to be a political decision rather than a commercial one.

“This reflected the will of the central government and is also related to the U.S. strategy on Asia,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“It is not commercially driven. It is also not like CNOOC has set a big exploration blueprint for the region.”

However, Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a government think-tank in the southern province of Hainan, said China was unlikely to pay much heed to Vietnamese concerns.

“If we stop our work there as soon as Vietnam shouts, China will not be able to achieve anything in the South China Sea,” Wu said.

“We have lost a precious opportunity to drill for oil and gas in the Spratlys. Also this time we are drilling in Xisha (Paracel Islands), not Nansha (Spratlys), there is no territorial dispute there. I think China will keep moving ahead with its plan (in Xisha), no matter what Vietnam says and does.”

Tran Duy Hai, the Vietnamese foreign ministry official, raised the possibility of Hanoi taking the dispute to international arbitration.

“We cannot exclude any measures, including international legal action, as long as it is peaceful.

“We are a peace-loving nation that has experienced many wars,” he said. “If this situation goes too far, we will use all measures in line with international law to protect our territory. We have limitations, but we will stand up to any Chinese aggression.”

The Philippines has already taken its dispute with China to an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Manuel Mogato in Manila and Charlie Zhu in Hong Kong; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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This blatant disregard for international diplomacy, disrespect of UNCLOS and utter arrogance of China, which growingly being seen as the ‘neighborhood bully’ by international community would just escalate the matter further. This is a precursor of United States military presence in the region at the level during the height of the Vietnam War 45 years ago.

*Updated 2200hrs

Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 19:30  Comments (17)