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Vietnamese Conflict in South East China Sea.

China and Vietnam are close neighbors having a shared border.

Both the states have seen ups and downs in their bilateral relationship since their inception. They are considered as difficult neighbors for some of differences. Although both the states have cooperated in various fields and various times but still have their mutual suspicions. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional organization of whose these two states are member. Vietnam is a permanent member and China has a special kind of relationship.... that is ASEAN+3. In ASEAN+3, beside Japan and South Korea, China is included. Through ASEAN, China and Vietnam do cooperation with one another and also there is a mechanism for bilateral cooperation between the two countries. If it was the ancient China-centric world in East Asia or the Vietnamese independence struggle against the French colonial rule... if it was the Vietnam's war with the United States, or Vietnam's war with Cambodia and then with China, in all cases, there has been a positive or negative interaction between China and Vietnam. The tensions between the two countries belie a shared ideological and cultural past. For centuries, parts of Vietnam existed under the suzerainty of Chinese dynasties. By the mid 20th

century, as the Vietnamese struggled to overthrow French colonial rule, Vietnam's revolutionaries received aid and support from Chairman Mao Zedong's People's Republic of China. But things turned after the conclusion of the U.S.-Vietnam War, when the Vietnamese moved solidly into the Soviet camp, antagonizing Beijing, which had warned to the United States and also helped prop up Pol Pot's murderous Khmer Rouge regime in neighboring Cambodia. Vietnam stepped in at the end of 1978, overthrew the Khmer Rouge and effectively ended the hideous Cambodian genocide. If the Vietnam's friendship with the Soviet Union in the Cold War era was a hurdle in normalization of relations with China, it was also the South China Sea dispute which has hindered the smooth way of communication between Beijing and Hanoi. It was the end of Cold War and start of a unipolar world which leveled the ground for the two states to foster their bilateral cooperation. But still there are some issues which are the

causes of tensions. The Spratlys Islands and Water control in East of China is one of the basic issues.

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve both island and maritime claims among seven states within the region, namely Brunei, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. There are disputes concerning the Spratly and the Paracel islands, as well as maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere. There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands. The interests of different nations include acquiring fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the potential exploitation of suspected crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea; and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.

There are five following areas where China and Vietnam are claimants in South China Sea.

1. Maritime boundary along the Vietnamese coast between Vietnam, China, and Taiwan

2. Maritime boundary north of Borneo between Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, and Brunei

3. Islands in the southern reaches of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands between Vietnam, Malaysia, The Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, and China

4. Islands in the northern reaches of the South China Sea, including the Paracel Islands between Vietnam, China, and Taiwan

5. The nine-dash line area claimed by China which covers most of the South China sea and overlaps Exclusive Economic Zone claims of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

As of 1996, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and other countries asserted claims within the Chinese nine-dotted line. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into effect on November 16, 1994, resulted in more intense territorial disputes between the parties. As of 2012, all of the Paracel Islands are under Chinese control. Eight of the Spratly Islands are under Chinese control; Vietnamese troops control the greatest number of Spratly islands that is 29.

To resolve the issue, Vietnam and China signed two agreements in December 2000 about long-standing territorial dispute over the resource rich Gulf of Tonkin. The agreements demarcate territorial waters and exclusive economic zones, as well as outlining regulations for fisheries. However the bilateral relationship deteriorated once again in May 2003 when the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry issues a "sovereignty" declaration on the Chinese ban on fishing in the South China Sea, claiming that Vietnam had undisputed "sovereignty" rights over the Paracel and Spratly islands. Retaliation came from the Chinese side in the same month. A Vietnamese ship has its cables cut by Chinese patrol boats while conducting a underwater survey of the South China Sea. So in next month, the Vietnam's foreign ministry says a Chinese fishing boat supported by two Chinese naval patrol craft cut a cable being used by a seismic survey craft operated by state- run energy company PetroVietnam. Then Vietnam held live-fire drills in the South China Sea amid high tensions with China over disputed waters.

The Economist observes that Vietnam was taken aback in early May when China parked an oil rig on its doorstep. The behemoth, which cost $1 billion, lies 17 nautical miles (32 km) from the Paracel islands, which China seized from the American-backed South Vietnamese regime in 1974, and about 150 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast. Vietnam's leaders say the rig is inside their 200-mile exclusive economic zone as defined by international law. They wanted to settle the dispute quickly through negotiations. But China is said to have rebuffed requests for a summit and talks between lower-ranking officials went nowhere.

Now, the prospect of a quiet resolution looks increasingly remote. As the two countries' boats circle each other near the rig, diplomats from both sides are circulating complaints to the UN. It is an unusual move for China, which normally eschews international bodies in its disputes with other countries. The South China Morning Post, a newspaper based in Hong Kong, reported on June 9th that China had temporarily banned its state-owned firms from bidding on new contracts in Vietnam. That followed two days of anti-Chinese riots in mid-May, in which four Chinese workers were killed, and the sinking, in late May, of a wooden Vietnamese fishing boat that collided with a Chinese adversary.

Recently China said talks with Vietnam over a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea were "constructive," that Vietnam is hyping up the spat that has roiled relations between the countries. Vietnam and China held their first high-level meeting in June 2014 on the issue since a Chinese state-owned company placed an oil rig in waters claimed by each nation on May 2, heightening territorial tensions across the South China Sea. China, which claims a large part of the area under a 1940s-era map, is increasing its claims to both the Paracel Islands off Vietnam's coast and the more southerly Spratly Islands. "What is pressing now is that the Vietnamese side should stop their disturbances against China's operation, stop hyping up relevant issues, pulling up disputes and stop creating new tensions," China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has expressed.

According to Chinese Govt, the meeting in Hanoi was candid and constructive and both sides agreed "to find a proper resolution through political and diplomatic means. The talks took place after weeks of skirmishes between boats from the two countries that have been facing off in the area of the rig. On May 26 a

Vietnamese fishing boat sank, with the sides blaming each other.

On the other hand, Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said after his talks with China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi that Vietnam was seeking a "healthy" relationship with China. Vietnam wished to have dialogue to resolve the current complicated situation in the East Sea. Pham also demanded China withdraw the rig and its vessels from "the Vietnamese waters. Yang, in the talks with the Vietnamese officials, stressed that the islands are "China's inherent territory" and its drilling operations in the area are legal. China may be preparing to step up the pressure, with a second rig being prepared for deployment in the area, Vietnamese news agency TuoiTrenews reported. "As far as I've learned, it is located in the coastal waters off China's Hainan Island, Chinese Representative Hua said. China has 136 vessels, including five military ships, near the original oil rig off Vietnam's coast; an area Vietnam says is its territorial waters. China has denied sending military ships to the area.

For the better future of the two countries and the region, it is highly fruitful to avoid conflict. For the peaceful rise of China and a booming market of Vietnam, conflict is in interest of no one. Constructive dialogue and a continued diplomatic communication may resolve the issue. Patience is needed on both sides, as their bilateral relations have witnessed an upward move since 1991.
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Publication:The Diplomatic Insight
Geographic Code:0PACI
Date:Aug 31, 2014
Words:1503
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