Asserting sovereignty, Indonesia renames part of South China Sea


Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Maritime Affairs Arif Havas Oegroseno points at the location of North Natuna Sea on a new map of Indonesia during talks with reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017. Photo: Beawiharta

Tom Allard and Bernadette Christina Munthe July 14, 2017

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea on Friday, the latest act of resistance by Southeast Asian nations to China’s territorial ambitions in the maritime region.

Seen by analysts as an assertion of Indonesian sovereignty, part of the renamed sea is claimed by China under its contentious maritime boundary, known as the ‘nine-dash line’, that encompasses most of the resource-rich sea.

Several Southeast Asian states dispute China’s territorial claims and are competing with China to exploit the South China Sea’s abundant hydrocarbon and fishing resources. China has raised the ante by deploying military assets on artificial islands constructed on shoals and reefs in disputed parts of the sea.

Indonesia insists it’s a non-claimant state in the South China Sea dispute but has clashed with China over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands, detaining Chinese fishermen and expanding its military presence in the area over the past 18 months.

Unveiling the new official map, the deputy of maritime sovereignty at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Arif Havas Oegroseno, noted the northern side of its exclusive economic zone was the site of oil and gas activity.

“We want to update the naming of the sea [and] we gave a new name in line with the usual practice: the North Natuna Sea,” he told reporters.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he didn’t know anything about the details of the issue, but said the name South China Sea had broad international recognition and clear geographic limits.

“Certain countries’ so-called renaming is totally meaningless,” he told a daily news briefing. “We hope the relevant country can meet China halfway and properly maintain the present good situation in the South China Sea region, which has not come easily.”

‘Clear Message’

I Made Andi Arsana, an expert on the Law of the Sea from Indonesia’s Universitas Gadjah Mada, said the renaming carried no legal force but was a political and diplomatic statement.

“It will be seen as a big step by Indonesia to state its sovereignty,” he told Reuters. “It will send a clear message, both to the Indonesian people and diplomatically speaking.”

Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, said Indonesia’s action followed renewed resistance to Chinese territorial claims by other Southeast Asian states.

“This will be noticed in Beijing,” he said.

Last week, Vietnam extended an Indian oil concession off its coast while a joint venture led by state-owned PetroVietnam commenced drilling further south. China has a territorial claim in both areas.

Meanwhile, the director of the Philippines Energy Resource Development Bureau, Ismael Ocampo, said on Wednesday that the country could lift a suspension on oil and gas drilling on the Reed Bank by December. The underwater mountain, lying 85 nautical miles off the Philippines coast, is also claimed by China.

Exploration activity was suspended in late 2014 as the Philippines sought an international ruling on China’s territorial claim. The Philippines won the case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague one year ago.

China refused to recognize the decision. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office on June 30 last year, expressed reluctance about enforcing the decision at the time, as he sought deeper diplomatic and economic ties with China.

However, the Philippines lately has become more assertive about its sovereignty.

More than two dozen oil, gas and coal blocks, including additional areas in disputed waters, may be offered during the December bidding, Ocampo said on Wednesday.

Reporting by Tom Allard and Bernadette Christina Munthe; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Bill Tarrant

Source: Reuters “Asserting sovereignty, Indonesia renames part of South China Sea”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Vietnam renews India oil deal in tense South China Sea


By Mai Nguyen, Nidhi Verma and Sanjeev Miglani | HANOI/NEW DELHI Thu Jul 6, 2017 | 10:49am EDT

Vietnam has extended an Indian oil concession in the South China Sea and begun drilling in another area it disputes with China in moves that could heighten tensions over who owns what in the vital maritime region.

The moves come at a delicate time in Beijing’s relations with Vietnam, which claims parts of the sea, and India, which recently sent warships to monitor the Malacca Straits, through which most of China’s energy supplies and trade passes.

Vietnam granted Indian oil firm ONGC Videsh a two-year extension to explore oil block 128 in a letter that arrived earlier this week, the state-run company’s managing director Narendra K. Verma told Reuters.

Part of that block is in the U-shaped ‘nine-dash line’ which marks the vast area that China claims in the sea, a route for more than $5 trillion in trade each year in which the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have claims.

A senior official of ONGC Videsh, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said interest in the block was strategic rather than commercial, given that oil development there was seen as high-risk with only moderate potential.

“Vietnam also wants us to be there because of China’s interventions in the South China Sea,” the official said.

Vietnam’s state-run PetroVietnam declined to comment on the concession, which was first granted to India in 2006 but had been due to expire in mid-June.

Conflicting territorial claims over the sea stretch back many decades but have intensified in recent years as China and its rivals have reinforced their positions on the rocks and reefs they hold.

Far to the south of block 128, drilling has begun in a block owned jointly by Vietnam’s state oil firm, Spain’s Repsol and Mubadala Development Co [MUDEV.UL] of the United Arab Emirates.

Deepsea Metro I, operated by Odfjell Drilling Ltd., has been drilling in the region since the middle of last month on behalf of Spain’s Repsol SA, which also has rights to neighboring block 07/03, Odfjell said.

Odfjell declined to comment on the specific location of its vessel, but shipping data from Thomson Reuters Eikon showed it was in oil block 136/3, which also overlaps China’s claims.

Odfjell’s Eirik Knudsen, V‎ice President for Corporate Finance and Investor Relations, referred further queries to Repsol, which declined to comment. PetroVietnam made no comment.

COMPETING MARITIME CLAIMS

When asked about the activity, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China opposes anyone “carrying out unilateral, illegal oil and gas activities in waters China has jurisdiction over”.

“We hope the relevant country can act on the basis of maintaining regional peace and stability and not do anything to complicate the situation,” he told a briefing in Beijing.

Chinese General Fan Changlong cut short a visit to Vietnam and a friendship meeting at the China-Vietnam border was canceled around the time the drilling began.

The centuries-old mistrust between China and Vietnam is nowhere more evident than in their competing maritime claims, despite their shared communist ideology and growing trade.

Asked about the most recent drilling, Vietnamese officials said their Chinese counterparts have started raising concerns about cooperation with both Repsol and ExxonMobil Corp. of the United States, which is developing the $10 billion “Blue Whale” gas concession off central Vietnam.

They said Chinese officials also expressed concern at Vietnam’s evolving security relationships with the United States and Japan, both of which have offered moral support for its South China Sea claims and help for Vietnam’s coastguard.

Tensions with China were being contained, however, and had not yet reached crisis proportions, they said.

“We know they are unhappy again, but we are resisting the pressure – it is a traditional part of our relations with Beijing,” one official said privately. “Other parts of the relationship remain strong.”

Underlining the relationship between India and Vietnam, Vietnamese deputy prime minister Pham Binh Minh told a forum in New Delhi this week that India was welcome to play a bigger role in Southeast Asia – and specifically the South China Sea.

Hanoi’s growing defense and commercial ties with India are part of its strategy of seeking many partnerships with big powers while avoiding formal military alliances.

The pace has picked up since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration took office in 2014 and sought to push back against China’s expanding presence in South Asia by raising its diplomatic and military engagement in Southeast Asia.

India is providing naval patrol boats, satellite cover to monitor Vietnam’s waters and training for its submarines and fighter pilots – more military support than it is giving to any other Southeast Asian country.

On the agenda are transfers of naval vessels and missiles under a $500 million defense credit line announced last year.

Next week, the navies of India, the United States and Japan will hold their largest joint exercises in the Bay of Bengal.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Greg Torode in Hong Kong; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Source: Reuters “Vietnam renews India oil deal in tense South China Sea”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China installs rocket launchers on disputed South China Sea island: report


China has installed rocket launchers on a disputed reef in the South China Sea to ward off Vietnamese military combat divers, according to a state-run newspaper, offering new details on China’s ongoing military build-up.

China has said military construction on the islands it controls in the South China Sea will be limited to necessary defensive requirements, and that it can do what it likes on its own territory.

The United States has criticized what it has called China’s militarization of its maritime outposts and stressed the need for freedom of navigation by conducting periodic air and naval patrols near them that have angered Beijing.

The state-run Defense Times newspaper, in a Tuesday report on its WeChat account, said Norinco CS/AR-1 55mm anti-frogman rocket launcher defense systems with the capability to discover, identify and attack enemy combat divers had been installed on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.

Fiery Cross Reef is administered by China but also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The report did not say when the defense system was installed, but said it was part of a response that began in May 2014, when Vietnamese divers installed large numbers of fishing nets in the Paracel Islands.

China has conducted extensive land reclamation work at Fiery Cross Reef, including building an airport, one of several Chinese-controlled features in the South China Sea where China has carried out such work.

More than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea every year. Besides China’s territorial claims in the area, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

(Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Ben Blanchard)

Source: “China installs rocket launchers on disputed South China Sea island: report”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China, Vietnam agree to keep South China Sea tensions in check


An aerial view of uninhabited island of Spratlys in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

China and Vietnam will manage and properly control their maritime disputes, avoiding actions to complicate or widen them, so as to maintain peace in the South China Sea, the two nations said in a joint communique China released on Monday.

Vietnam is the Southeast Asian country most openly at odds with China over the waterway since the Philippines pulled back from confrontation under President Rodrigo Duterte.

After what China said were “positive” talks on the South China Sea last week between President Xi Jinping and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, the joint statement stressed the need to control differences.

Both countries agreed to “manage and properly control maritime disputes, not take any actions to complicate the situation or expand the dispute, and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea”, it added.

The document, released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said both had a “candid and deep” exchange of views on maritime issues, and agreed to use an existing border talks mechanism to look for a lasting resolution.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Besides Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the route, through which about $5 trillion of trade passes each year.

Last year, tension between Beijing and Hanoi rose after Taiwan and U.S. officials said China had placed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, part of the Paracels archipelago it controls.

Vietnam called China’s actions a serious infringement of its sovereignty over the Paracels.

In 2014, tension between the two communist countries peaked more dramatically when China moved an oil rig into disputed waters and protests broke out across Vietnam.

Relations have gradually improved since, with exchanges of high-level visits, though the regional military buildup continues, including China’s construction of airstrips on man-made islands in the busy waterway.

Quang arrived in Beijing last week for a state visit and to attend a two-day conference ending Monday on an ambitious scheme proposed by Xi to build a new Silk Road connecting China to Asia, Europe and beyond, through massive infrastructure investment.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: Reuters “China, Vietnam agree to keep South China Sea tensions in check”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road Defeats Obama’s Pivot to Asia


Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang (behind L) and China’s President Xi Jinping (behind R) attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China has the economic resources to fund the construction of infrastructure in its neighbors and along its Silk Road economic belt and 21st century maritime Silk Road (OBOR). In doing so, China certainly takes political risks as quite a few of those countries lack political stability. Those countries will first be benefited while China will be benefited in the end if it is lucky enough. Anyway China can afford that.

China’s OBOR plan aims at benefiting itself through benefiting others with no intention to cause difficulties or contain any other countries but it in fact effectively counter US pivot to Asia that aims at containing China.

US pivot to Asia, however, solely aims at containing China. To make other countries join it, it creates the mythology of Chinese threat, but China’s OBOR initiative thoroughly breaks such mythology.

To attract other countries to join the US in containing China economically, former US president Obama almost succeeded in establishing his favorite Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by promising some benefits to some Asian countries, but Obama’s successor Trump and Clinton who tried but failed to succeed Obama, both find that the US cannot afford giving others such benefits. Trump withdrew from TPP as soon as he was inaugurated.

Now, Reuters says in its article “China says has ‘positive’ talks with Vietnam on South China Sea” today, Vietnam, “the country most openly at odds with China over the waterway since the Philippines pulled back from confrontation under President Rodrigo Duterte”, has sent its president Tran Dai Quang to attend China’s OBOR summit.

Obviously, Vietnam also wants to be benefited from China’s OBOR initiative though, strictly speaking, it is not a country along the Silk Road. It will certainly be pleased if China is willing to provide funds for construction of its infrastructure. That will make Vietnam put aside its disputes with China in the South China Sea.

In its article “Why China’s trump card in global diplomacy is fraught with peril” SCMP points out the lots of risks in China’s OBOR plan in its article “Why China’s trump card in global diplomacy is fraught with peril” on May 10. Like other Western and pro-Western media, SCMP believes China’s OBOR initiative aims at expanding its world influence and perhaps replacing the US as world leader.

If so, China certainly will make efforts alone instead of inviting as many countries as possible to share the benefits of its OBOR plan. To have world hegemony, one shall make oneself much stronger than others instead of making others grow stronger along with oneself.

Xi is very pragmatic. Take Vietnam for example, it is quite enough that China funds Vietnam’s infrastructure to facilitate moving its labor-intensive industries to exploit Vietnam’s cheap labor.

For Southeast Asia that is far from Silk Road, the infrastructure funded by China will first of all facilitate rich overseas Chinese there in growing their business. As overseas Chinese love their motherland, China’s influence will be greatly expanded there.

What is the use of US pivot there compared with China’s OBOR initiative that has in fact nothing to do with Southeast Asia as the area has never been along China’s Silk Road.

In my opinion, China holds the OBOR summit to mark the collapse of US pivot to Asia and China’s success in resisting the pivot.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ and SCMP’s articles, full text of which can respectively be viewed at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-vietnam-idUSKBN1871HH and http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2093140/why-risks-abound-belt-and-road.


Why America—and Its Political Leaders—Should Think Twice about Poking China


Politicians should carefully consider the impact that their words may have on America’s international relationships.

Jared McKinney March 26, 2017

The first rule of rational thinking is that one should not assume what one hopes to prove. The first rule of international politics is that misperception is rampant. And the first rule of strategy is that the adversary gets a vote too. Sadly, Rep. Ted Yoho violates all three of these rules in his March 22 analysis titled “How America Should Confront China’s Unchecked Maritime Bullying.” The result is an empty shell of words masquerading as strategic advice. Isolated, this could be ignored; more worryingly—and more difficult to ignore—is that Rep. Yoho’s article nicely represents the resentful, unreflective, incurious and superficial rhetoric that is increasingly coming to dominate Washington’s view of China.

Assuming What We Claim to Prove

Rep. Yoho begins his article by commenting on the economic importance of maritime Asia. Undisputedly, a large amount of commerce passes through these waters. He then suggests this commerce may be threatened by China, which has “possibly” indicated its “ambition to exclude foreign vessels from China’s near seas at will.” His evidence? The increasing strength of the People’s Liberation Army and Chinese investments in Anti-Access/Area Denial weapons.

Confronted with the fact that China has sought to strengthen its military since Deng Xiaoping launched his “four modernizations,” an intellectually curious person might posit a variety of explanations. These might include Chinese embarrassment over its poor performance in the 1979 war with Vietnam, a desire to be recognized as a great power by the United States and Russia, and a commitment to defending China’s territorial interests, particularly given the humiliation it suffered in the 1995–96 Taiwan Straits Crisis. Indeed, if a person took the trouble to speak with some Chinese military officers, or even merely read some standard histories of China’s rise, then that person would discover that this last explanation is particularly salient. China desires the ability to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Since U.S. actions have threatened—and could once again threaten—these objectives, China is making investments intended to preserve its interests. Here we have the origins of China’s A2/AD investments, and an explanation for Chinese strategy.

But this is not what Rep. Yoho does in his analysis. Instead, he connects China’s growing military power to the possible “ambition to exclude foreign vessels from China’s near seas at will.” This connection is not impossible, and if it were something China was capable of doing, and if it was something China was likely to do, given the region’s importance, then this would be a big deal. But Rep. Yoho never completes that argument. He never informs us why it is likely that China might exclude trading vessels from the region, thereby injuring global commerce.

Risk is calculated by multiplying the probability of an event occurring by the estimated consequence of that event. When probability is extremely low, even when the consequence is high, risk is low. This formula must lie at the heart of all strategic thinking. When it does not, the results are not just irrational but dangerous.

So what is the likelihood that China would disrupt the “$5 trillion” in commerce that moves across the Asia-Pacific region? Most of this commerce is coming from China, going to China, passing through a Chinese port, or ultimately destined for China in one capacity or another. This is a good place to start: disrupting this commerce would be contrary to China’s most important interests.

Seemingly aware of this fact, Rep. Yoho moves on to discuss energy supplies for nations like Japan and South Korea. Perhaps China would intercept those? And what does Rep. Yoho think would happen to the Chinese economy if the economies of two of its closest neighbors collapsed at China’s behest? Does Rep. Yoho understand that a disabled Chinese economy would destroy the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party? Does he know that oil can be sold on a spot market (sometimes as many as thirty times on one journey), making it difficult for a blockading force to tell where oil is ultimately destined? Does he know that transshipment of oil from Southeast Asia would be impossible to prevent? Has he calculated China’s ability to impose such a blockade? Does he know that the South China Sea is a “tough neighborhood for hegemonies” because it lacks any dominating geographical features? Is he aware that China’s neighbors could respond with their own A2/AD networks, locking China out of the region’s seas? Does he realize the United States could easily respond tit-for-tat in the Persian Gulf, for China, too, is dependent on oil imports? And has he considered that such a move would forever alienate China’s neighbors and most of the globe’s respectable powers? The answer to all these questions is an apparent “no.” But if someone did bother to answer them, then that person would come to the realization that it would be literally suicidal for China to disrupt the commerce of the Asia-Pacific region. Further reflection would likely yield the conclusion that China could not effectively do so even if it so desired.

Where then is the evidence that China’s military investments are intended to disrupt the commerce of the Asia-Pacific region? None has been offered. What Rep. Yoho desires to prove he has merely assumed. Until evidence is provided to the contrary, the risk of China destroying the maritime commerce of the Asia-Pacific region should be assessed as close to nonexistent.

Misperception Is Rampant

Rep. Yoho seems to believe that Chinese “belligerence” is running in a straight line, and as a result of the Obama administration’s failure to “impose costs,” China is running rampant, bullying its neighbors. This view misperceives the extent to which the situation in the South China Sea has stabilized. Indeed, in the last year, both the Philippines and Vietnam have ended their open rivalry with China and engaged in bilateral negotiations. Knowledgeable diplomats believe an Association of Southeast Asian Code of Conduct will be agreed upon this year, and Chinese insiders have told me that China is committed to seeing it through. China is no longer building the types of islands that so concern Rep. Yoho and Filipino fishermen are back at Scarborough Shoal. In East and Southeast Asia, foreign-policy elites are now more worried about being dragged into a U.S.-China conflict than Chinese “assertiveness.” Japanese nationalism, naturally, remains alive and well, and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense issue has made China-South Korea ties the worst in recent history, but these are separate issues.

Yet even if interactions in the South China Sea have stabilized, there remains plenty of room for misperception. For example, Rep. Yoho claims that China’s seizure of America’s unmanned underwater vehicle in December 2016 was “a transparent attempt to deliberately engineer an international incident.” This is an assertion, but not an argument (see point one above). Furthermore, this statement assumes a good many things about China that may not, in fact, be true. Why would China want to engineer a conflict with the incoming Trump administration, which has not yet decided how it’s going to deal with China? Is Rep. Yoho aware, as I have previously argued, that it could be that the United States was the actual engineer of this international incident? Even more significantly, as I have recently learned from conversations with two dozen Chinese foreign-policy experts, within China there is a sound consensus that the seizure of the unmanned underwater vehicle was not authorized by China’s political leaders. If this is the case, then Rep. Yoho is perceiving an unauthorized Chinese move as an intentional political challenge. In other words, that is a common case of misperception.

The Adversary Gets a Vote Too

The single most extraordinary fact about Rep. Yoho’s article is that he never once considers whether his solution for Chinese “belligerence”—imposing costs—will, in fact, change Chinese behavior in the way he intends. Anticipating an adversary’s response is the most basic rule of strategy. This rule is endemic to human interaction, and highlighted in certain games, such as chess. Only a fool would move first and consider consequences later.

Yet this is what Rep. Yoho would have us do. He suggests a series of moves: more freedom of navigation operations, commercial sanctions, punishing (though expressed in more diplomatic terms) the Philippines for its realignment and disinviting China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific naval exercise while inviting Taiwan. Rep. Yoho merely assumes these moves will result in his preferred outcome. Yet there are alternative possible outcomes. One is that such moves change nothing. Minor pokes are not going to force China to fundamentally alter its strategy. Another alternative is that China escalates tensions, but in its own way. Perhaps it more closely tails U.S. forces in the region. Perhaps it increases its long-term military investments. Or perhaps it punishes American “allies,” such as Taiwan.

The most likely outcome need not be assessed in this essay. My present plea is only that we—as Americans—reorient our thinking. If the United States is going to formulate intelligent strategies in this increasingly complicated time, simple assertions need to be excised from our strategic discourse. The National Interest and other serious foreign-policy publications should not publish a single new essay on the theme of changing U.S. strategy towards China unless that essay carefully considers how China (and other regional actors) would respond to such a change. Strategic interactions are dynamic, and, like good chess players, we must model probable action-reaction cycles to the best of our ability. In the realm of international politics, the rules are not as certain as those of chess, but that is no excuse. In real life, our decisions could result in conflict or even war. As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Rep. Yoho has a particularly weighty responsibility in this regard—one that his piece in the National Interest sadly neglects.

Conclusion

I have been forced to take a negative tone in this article, but I do so for a constructive purpose: we can do better than this. Indeed, if peace is going to be preserved in the coming decade, we must do better. Doing better means formulating thoughtful arguments. That means justifying assumptions, considering alternative explanations and being genuinely curious about discovering the truth. Doing better means realizing that misperception is common in international politics, and doing what we can to mitigate this fact. Signals can be ambiguous; states often aren’t unitary rational actors; and situations evolve constantly. Finally, doing better means realizing that strategy is a dynamic process, and actions can have short- and long-term effects. In 1996, did anyone consider that by projecting force around China in such a humiliating manner that the United States would stimulate a huge Chinese military buildup, including A2/AD investments and an aircraft carrier program? Perhaps not, but that is the point. The Chinese are here to play the long game, and if Washington elites are going to make a habit of publishing articles calling on the United States to poke the dragon, then they should at least consider whether the dragon, in fact, needs to be poked and how the dragon might respond both today and a decade hence.

Jared McKinney is a nonresident fellow at the Pangoal Institution (Beijing) and a PhD Student at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore).

Source: National Interest “Why America—and Its Political Leaders—Should Think Twice about Poking China”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Maritime Dispute Insignificant for Vietnam as China Controls Water


Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Vietnam Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong raise a toast following their official talks at the VCP's Headquarters in Hanoi (November 5, 2015). Image Credit: REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Vietnam Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong raise a toast following their official talks at the VCP’s Headquarters in Hanoi (November 5, 2015). Image Credit: REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam

The Diplomat says in its article yesterday titled “The Resurgence of China-Vietnam Ties”, “A visit to Beijing by Vietnam’s Communist Party chief underscored a major shift in Sino-Vietnamese bilateral relations…. According to Vietnamese news media, the four-day visit resulted in a joint communiqué, which among other points stressed upholding mutual political trust and both sides’ commitment to deepening their all-around strategic cooperative partnership. Trong’s trip and the sharply increased mutual trust it reflects will rehabilitate China-Vietnam ties in the near future after a few years of remarkable disruption.”

The article regards the new development as Vietnam’s response to Trump’s policies of America first and withdrawal from TPP as there is no hope for Vietnam to rely on the US to counter China whether economically or militarily. Without TPP, Vietnam cannot reduce its economic reliance on China.

However, the vital factor that has caused Vietnam to seek China’s favor is China’s control of the Mekong River, the source of freshwater for 2 million Vietnamese people. The article described Vietnam’s trouble caused by Chinese-backed mainstream dam-building projects in the river in countries close to China but hostile to Vietnam.

Anyway, Vietnam shall regard itself as lucky if China does not annex it as it did in the past when China had grown powerful.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on The Diplomat’s article, full text of which can be found at http://thediplomat.com/2017/01/the-resurgence-of-china-vietnam-ties/.