Chinese Naval Maneuvers Seen as Warning to Vietnam
A few days after Vietnam conducted live-fire exercises in the South China Sea, in response to rising tensions with China over disputed territory, China conducted naval drills of their own:
The display of naval might hundreds of miles from China’s southernmost border was widely seen as a warning to Vietnam, which this week conducted its own live fire drills near the Spratly Islands. Several countries claim sovereignty over the string of uninhabited volcanic rocks, which are ringed by jagged reefs and crusted with bird droppings but rendered attractive by virtue of the surrounding waters that are fertile fishing grounds and may cover significant reserves of oil and natural gas.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all claim jurisdiction over some of the territory. But China contends its sovereignty dates from ancient national maps that show the islands to be an integral part of its territory.
On Friday, state television showed video of Chinese patrol boats firing repeated rounds at a target on what looked like an uninhabited island, as twin fighter jets streaked in tandem overhead. The report said 14 vessels participated in the maneuvers, staging antisubmarine and beach landing drills aimed at “defending atolls and protecting sea lanes.”
China has pressed its claim to the outcrops in the South China Sea more assertively in the last two years. Chinese civilian vessels have increasingly confronted fishing and oil-exploration ships from other countries operating in those waters.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and Vietnam issued a joint statement rejecting the use of force in the region. From AFP:
After talks in Washington, the former war foes said that “the maintenance of peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is in the common interests of the international community.”
“All territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved through a collaborative, diplomatic process without coercion or the use of force,” the two countries said in a joint statement.
Disputes have flared in recent weeks in the South China Sea, with Vietnam holding live-fire military exercises after accusing Chinese ships of ramming an oil survey ship and cutting the exploration cables of another one.
China staged its own three days of military exercises in the South China Sea, which state media said was aimed at boosting the country’s offshore maritime patrol force.
See also a report from Link TV: