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 China Sea and that it won't be bullied by China," said Ian Storey, a specialist on the region and fellow at the

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Join date : 2011-04-28

PostSubject: China Sea and that it won't be bullied by China," said Ian Storey, a specialist on the region and fellow at the    Sun Jul 03, 2011 5:50 am

aid Vietnam and other countries in the region were watching whether "we are going to back up those words with substantive action," the Associated Press reported. "That does not mean military confrontation, per se, but we have to make a clear signal," Sen. Webb said.
A Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Nguyen Phuong Nga, said in a statement released late Monday that the training drill was a previously planned live-fire exercise and would continue Tuesday. Yet the fanfare with which Vietnam announced the exercises in recent days sent a rather different message. "The point of these exercises is to send a clear message that Vietnam is serious about protecting its interests in the South China Sea and that it won't be bullied by China," said Ian Storey, a specialist on the region and fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. Tensions have been building for months in the South China Sea, which is claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei and also contains some of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Vietnam last week accused a Chinese fishing vessel, backed up by two patrol boats, of snapping the cables of an exploration boat operated by state oil company PetroVietnam, prompting a sharp exchange of words between Beijing and Hanoi and triggering rare street protests in Vietnam's biggest cities.
In late May, Vietnamese officials accused Chinese vessels of sabotaging another exploration vessel operating within 200 nautical miles of Vietnam's coast, which Hanoi regards as its own exclusive economic zone as provided under international law. The Philippines, too, has complained about Chinese military intimidation of survey vessels operating in Philippine waters and has accused China of attempting to build fresh structures near the Spratly Islands. Chinese Foreign Ministry officials couldn't be reached to comment. But Beijing previously has said it wishes to preserve stability in the South China Sea while insisting on its sovereignty over the whole area. Last week, China's ambassador to the Philippines, Liu Jianchao, warned neighboring countries not to explore for oil without its permission. China and its neighbors are divided on how to reconcile their respective claims in the South China Sea. The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, are pushing for multilateral negotiations to resolve sovereignty disputes, particularly disputes over the semisubmerged atolls and reefs known as the Paracels and Spratly Islands. During its chairmanship of Asean last year, Vietnam initiated moves to internationalize the dispute, with the goal of providing a stronger counterweight to China's growing diplomatic and military powere. That move angered Beijing, which last year described the South China Sea as a core national interest and which prefers to negotiate settlements separately with each individual claimant country.
The recent conflicts in the South China Sea are, in a broad sense, part of a long-established cycle of rival claimants probing one another's resolve. Occasionally, water-borne encounters lead to a loss of life. In 1988, more than 70 Vietnamese sailors died when Chinese vessels sank three Vietnamese navy ships near Johnson Reef. More often, tensions recede and the competing nations resume their slow progress toward negotiating a way to exploit the oil and gas reserves in the area. This time, Vietnam has responded to China's alleged infringements with a significantly harder line. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung last week described Vietnam's claim to the area as "incontestable." In addition, the publicity which Vietnam conferred on what it later said was an annual training exercise also pointed to the depth of feeling in Vietnam regarding its claim to parts of the South China Sea. Still, Vietnam is unlikely to go much further in flexing its military muscle, analysts say. Carlyle Thayer, a professor at Australian Defence Force Academy at the University of New South Wales, said that if Vietnam uses disproportionate force to make its point, China could seize on it to claim that Vietnam is the aggressor. "China's intent is to intimidate Vietnam into backing down or provoke it into taking action that would divide the other Asean members," Mr. Thayer said. Vietn
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