SOUTH CHINA SEA tension has resulted in extremely strained relations between China and Vietnam, and now Hanoi has sent a furious message to their counterparts in Beijing as they continue to resist Chinese aggression.
Vietnam published defence white papers this week, as did Malaysia, with the former being especially robust in their assessment of China’s actions in the region. As the South China Morning Post reports, The Vietnamese white paper deplored what it called “new developments” in the waters, including “unilateral actions, power-based coercion, violation of international law, militarisation, change in the status quo, and infringement upon Vietnam’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction as provided in international law”.
The paper added that these actions “undermined the interests of nations concerned and threatened peace, stability, security, safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the region”
This coincides with the Deputy Defence Minister’s defiant message upon the documents release last month.
Deputy Defence Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh said last month: “We will uncompromisingly struggle against anything that harms our national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and political system.”
The South China Sea is host to lucrative shipping lanes and trading ports, provoking President Xi Jinping to enforce a controversial Nine-Dash Line demarcation of what China deems to be its territory.
The demarcation enforces a claim over all of the island clusters in the region and 90 percent of the South China Sea as a whole, but is deemed illegal by UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).
This has angered smaller nations in the region such as Vietnam and the Philippines, both of whom are reeling at China’s militarisation of the Spratly Islands – a key archipelago in the region that both countries claim sovereignty over.
Described by many as “island fortresses”, China has engulfed the South China Sea with man made island bases, and has been accused of forming them specifically for military purposes.
A leaked set of photos given to a Filipino newspaper showed just how elaborate the developments on military bases have been.
Some photographs showed cargo ships and supply vessels, which the newspaper said appeared to be delivering construction materials to the China-controlled islands.
Others show runways, hangars, control towers, helipads and radomes as well as a series of multistorey buildings that China has built on reefs.
China arguably has far more baggage when it comes to exchanges with Vietnam than any other country, with whom violent and frightening skirmishes have sporadically occurred, even resulting in war.
On February 17, 1979, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops crossed Vietnam’s northern border to invade the country, waging a bloody strike along the 370-mile border that the two nations share.
In 2014, there was a standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese military, as a Chinese oil rig entered disputed waters where Vietnam had also contested for ownership.
A similar standoff also occurred this year, when a Chinese oil vessel spent three months in Vietnam’s EEZ before departing last month.