China demonstrated its aggressive nature another step when vessel rammed into a Vietnamese fishing vessel and sink her, a few miles from the disputed Paracel Islands which was invaded by China in January 2014.
New York Times story:
China Tensions Grow After Vietnamese Ship Sinks in Clash
By JANE PERLEZMAY 27, 2014
BEIJING — Hair-trigger tensions in the South China Sea escalated Tuesday as China and Vietnam traded accusations over the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the vicinity of a Chinese oil rig parked in disputed waters off Vietnam’s coast.
The incident was almost certain to aggravate the already charged diplomatic and economic tensions between China and Vietnam, whose relations have plummeted to the worst in decades following anti-Chinese riots two weeks ago that killed at least four people.
In the latest incident, a Chinese vessel rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat about 17 nautical miles southwest of the rig on Monday afternoon, the state-run Vietnamese television network, VTV1, reported. All 10 crew members were rescued, the network said.
But Beijing labeled Vietnam as the aggressor, with the Chinese state-run news agency, Xinhua, saying the Vietnamese fishing boat “capsized when it was interfering with and ramming” a Chinese fishing vessel from Hainan, a province of China. Then China accused Vietnam of sabotage and interfering with the operations of the oil rig, which has become a flash point of tensions ever since Vietnam learned that the Chinese had set up the rig in waters contested by both nations.
A Chinese coast guard vessel, right, saiied near China’s oil drilling rig in disputed waters earlier this month in the South China Sea. Credit Hoang Dinh Nam/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
At sea, armadas of ships from both countries are jousting with each other as the Chinese try to protect the $1 billion oil rig operated by the energy giant Cnooc and the Vietnamese attempt to disrupt its operations.
Chinese and Vietnamese boats have rammed each other in the area around the oil rig, and the Chinese have acknowledged that they used water cannons to keep the Vietnamese away from the rig, which stands as tall as a 40-story building.
The rig arrived in the waters off the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both China and Vietnam, on May 1, a unilateral move that showed China was willing to create “facts” establishing its control of the waters of the South China Sea without consulting with other claimants.
“Suddenly Chinese fishing boat #11209 crashed into Vietnamese fishing boat DNa 90152 with 10 fishermen on board,” the VTV1 television report said. A deputy colonel in the Vietnamese Coast Guard, Ngo Ngoc Thu, said the Chinese ship had a steel hull.
An armada of as many as 80 boats, including some from the Chinese Coast Guard, now patrol around the rig, creating a wide perimeter established by the Chinese, according to Vietnamese accounts.
Warships from both countries, including five Chinese frigates, have been observed from outside the perimeter, American officials say.
Chinese social media sites lit up Tuesday with nationalistic postings inspired by the placement of the oil rig and Monday’s clash at sea. Users of ifeng.com, the website of Phoenix Television, a Hong Kong-based satellite network, sent congratulations to the Chinese ship for its action in sinking the Vietnamese vessel.
“Now this is showing some backbone,” said one anonymous user. “Good going, finally seeing some news of concrete action,” said another.
And the depth of anti-Chinese sentiment in Vietnam was on stark display last Friday when a 67-year-old Vietnamese woman set herself on fire and died in Ho Chi Minh City, an echo of the self-immolations by Buddhist monks in South Vietnam in the early 1960s during the Vietnam War.
In the latest incident, the woman burned herself at dawn in the center of the city, and she left behind papers imploring the Vietnamese government to act more aggressively against the Chinese oil rig, city officials said.
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Map: Territorial Disputes in the Waters Near China
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The episode between the Chinese and Vietnamese fishing vessels came after anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam resulted in the deaths of four Chinese workers and injuries to more than 100. China evacuated several thousand workers from Vietnam last week.
A report by Xinhua on Tuesday cited Cnooc as saying that the rig had finished its first phase of operation and would stay in the area until mid-August. The Vietnamese Fisheries Resources Surveillance Department said the rig was moved about a few hundred feet north on Sunday, but the significance of the move was not immediately clear.
In a signal of how China, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, now views the South China Sea as a top foreign policy priority, the country’s vice foreign minister said Tuesday that the sea was central to China’s very existence as a global economic power.
“Being the lifeline for China, the South China Sea is far more important to China than to other countries,” the minister, Liu Zhenmin, told reporters in Beijing.
China and Vietnam have enjoyed good relations between the Communist parties that run the two governments, and according to people close to the Vietnamese, the parking of the oil rig in disputed waters came as a surprise.
Since May 1, China has declined to hold substantive talks with Vietnam on the rig or the territorial claims in the South China Sea, a further indication of China’s resolve to make its claims unilaterally, Asian diplomats say. In response, Vietnam has threatened to take the matter to international arbitration, as the Philippines has already done.
The United States has urged restraint on both sides, and Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, the commander of the Pacific Fleet, warned last Friday that the proximity of the boats around the oil rig could lead to a collision.
It was initially impossible to determine whether the Chinese government controlled the Chinese fishing vessel involved in the clash, said Dennis J. Blasko, a former military attaché at the American embassy in Beijing. “We don’t know enough yet if this was coordinated or an individual action,” he said.
Many fishing boats are part of the Chinese militia, which are part of the Chinese armed forces, he said. “If the boat was part of the militia, it could have gotten an order fro the People’s Armed Forces Department,” he said.
The Chinese have publicly acknowledged that 80 percent of China’s fishing boats, including those operating out of Hainan, carry navigation equipment that is subsidized by the Chinese government.
The Beidou navigation satellite system, considered to be a Chinese version of GPS, allows the boats to send instant alarms and short messaging services, according to Qi Chengye, a manger of BDStar Navigation, which provides the Beidou system to Chinese vessels.
“The Chinese government is giving large subsidies to encourage fishermen to install BDS,” Mr. Qi said in an interview in Xinhua last year.
Chau Doan contributed reporting from Hanoi and Chris Buckley from Hong Kong. Bree Feng contributed research from Beijing.
NEXT IN ASIA PACIFIC
At another disputed island, China scrambles jet against Japanese aircraft near Senkaku.
Close call as China scrambles fighter jets on Japanese aircraft in disputed territory
By Tim Hume, CNN
May 26, 2014 — Updated 1923 GMT (0323 HKT)
This disputed islands in the East China Sea are known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
Hong Kong (CNN) — Territorial tensions between China and Japan have flared after a close encounter between their military jets in disputed airspace over the East China Sea.
The neighboring rivals accused each other of potentially triggering a dangerous incident, after two pairs of Chinese fighter jets were scrambled and flew unprecedentedly close to a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane and a YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft Saturday.
The fly-bys occurred in airspace claimed by both countries as part of their “air defense identification zones,” while China carried out joint maritime exercises with Russia at the weekend.
Japan claims the flights were part of a routine reconnaissance mission near a group of uninhabited islands claimed by both nations, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.
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Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of National Defense described the move as a justified enforcement of the country’s air defense zone.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said it was the closest that Chinese jets had come to Japanese aircraft — passing about 30 meters from one plane and 50 meters from another.
“We believe this proximity and behavior does not follow common sense,” he said.
He said the flight crews reported the Chinese planes were armed with missiles. “The crews were on edge as they responded.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday that Japan had lodged a protest to China through diplomatic channels over the incident.
“This should never happen,” he said.
Beyond meeting the Japanese aircraft, the Chinese jets took no further action, and the Japanese pilots returned to base.
READ MORE: China’s ‘air defense identification zone,’ explained
In response, a statement from China’s Ministry of National Defense blamed Japan for the incident, saying that the Chinese and Russian navies had issued “no-fly” notices in the area ahead of the maritime drill.
According to the statement, carried by Chinese state media, the ministry had since lodged a complaint with Japan and called on it to “stop all surveillance and interference activities.” “Otherwise, all the consequences that might be caused will be borne by the Japanese side,” read the statement.
An image of a Chinese fighter jet released by Japan’s Defense Ministry after the incident.
Tensions in recent years over China’s increasingly assertive stance towards territorial claims escalated in November when it unilaterally declared an “air defense identification zone,” or ADIZ, that included stretches of disputed territory.
An ADIZ is essentially a buffer zone outside a country’s sovereign airspace, in which nations request that approaching aircraft identify themselves. The United States and Japan have both declared such zones around their territories.
Both countries immediately challenged China’s declaration of its ADIZ in November, with the United States sending two unarmed B-52 bombers through the airspace without notifying Chinese authorities.
The disputed island standoff regularly sees the coast guards of China and Japan tail each other around the island chain.
While the islands are uninhabited, their ownership would allow for exclusive oil, mineral, and fishing rights in surrounding waters, and their status has been a regular flashpoint in Sino-Japanese relations.
These incidents are rude demonstrations of arrogant attitude towards neighbours. Clearly, the reciprocity would neither be kind nor condescending. It is interesting what is the remark if not reaction of United States, which is regard Japan as a strong ally and recent found friendship with once enemy Vietnam.
What is more interesting is Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak’s remarks, who is in China from today to commemorate 40th anniversary of friendship on 30 May 2014, where his father Second Prime Minister Tun Hj Abdul Razak Hussein pioneered from ASEAN. Prime Minister Najib is expected to attend a private four eyed dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China has had border disputes with Japan, Vietnam, India and Pakistan and territorial disputes which are against principles outlined under the United Nations Convention Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) with South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
China’s cry to its neighbours to resolve territorial disputes “Through talk, amongst ourselves as Asians”. However, China’s recent escalation actions are not reflective of neighbourly behavior and attitude.