South China Sea outrage: Furious Vietnam heighten Beijing tensions in new move with India

Tensions between Vietnam and China have increased throughout the year, due to the continuing intrusion of Chinese shipping vessels into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. Since the beginning of the year 28 Chinese ships have entered waters controlled by Hanoi, with the latest incidents occurring at the end of September. This has led to furious protests by the Vietnamese government, who have made over 40 diplomatic representations to Beijing.

Vietnam’s ambassador to India, Pham Sanh Chau, told reporters that Hanoi has informed China that “they shouldn’t violate our waters and they should withdraw all the ships as soon as they can.”

The ambassador said that the government plans to discuss these intrusions with India at an upcoming annual security conference, which takes place this month in Ho Chi Minh City.

The latest Chinese incursions have occurred close to waters where the Indian state-owned energy company, ONCG Videsh, is engaged in oil and gas exploration.

Mr Pham Sanh Chau said: “We hope we will be able to cover not only the security of the two countries but issues concerning the whole region, and especially, we will bring up the current situation in the South China Sea.”

For its part, India issued a statement in August in which it stated that it had an “abiding interest in the peace and stability” of the region and called for adherence to international laws, including the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea.

Vietnam enjoys a comprehensive strategic partnership with India, and the two governments are planning to discuss a multitude of issues ranging from security to trade and investment and to collaboration in science and technology.

Top of the agenda will be efforts to secure a $500 million loan from India for the purpose of buying military equipment.

The two countries are currently enjoying a blossoming trade partnership and are on track to boosting bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2020.

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In a further boost to economic cooperation and growth, India and Vietnam will commence direct flights between the two countries.

Hanoi is also hoping to resolve the thorny issue of Indian import restrictions on Vietnamese joss sticks, exports of which total $84 million.

Delhi imposed the restrictions in retaliation for what it saw as unfair state subsidies for Vietnam’s steel industry.

The Vietnamese ambassador called on India to review its decision.

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Vietnam and China have a long history of conflict over energy resources in the South China Sea, with China’s deployment in 2014 of its Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil platform sparking off deadly anti-China rioting in Vietnam.

Earlier this year, Vietnam forced a Chinese survey vessel to leave the Vanguard Bank in the South China Sea, where it is currently exploring for oil beneath the seabed.

Vietnam often works with Spanish and Indian companies on oil exploration contracts.

Experts believe that China resents this foreign interference and tries to pressure Vietnam to stop its joint ventures.

Yup Sun from the Stimson Centre think tank in Washington and an expert on East Asian affairs said: “I think (the new platform) is probably not to consolidate the Chinese sovereignty, but it’s to undermine the effort or the attempt of Vietnam to pursue joint exploration with other countries.”

This latest bout of conflict between China and Vietnam comes after the UK said it would send new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to the volatile South China Sea region.

This followed France’s announcement it had sent its Frigate, Dixmude, to the Spratly islands, which are a contested group of islands within the Nine Dash Line.

China hit back at the news of the European nations ordering key ships in their fleets to sail to the disputed sea area.

Major General Su Guanghui, China’s defence attaché to Britain last week said: “If the US and UK join hands in a challenge or violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, that would be hostile action.”

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