Vietnam Plans Military Exercise Near Disputed Waters

Posted June 10th, 2011 at 10:05 am (UTC-5)
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Vietnam plans to hold live-fire naval exercises in the South China Sea, as the dispute over control of the region and its potentially rich mineral deposits continues to heat up.

Hanoi said the exercise would be held Monday and warned civilian ships to stay out of the area near its Quang Nam province.

The training exercise follows an exchange of accusations by Vietnam and the Philippines over Chinese incursions in their waters.

On Thursday, China accused Vietnam of illegally entering its waters and endangering Chinese fishermen's lives in a South China Sea territorial dispute. The condemnation of Vietnam late Thursday came after Hanoi said a Chinese fishing trawler rammed an oil exploration ship in Vietnam's waters.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Chinese fishing boat became entangled in the Vietnamese boat's cables and was dragged for over one hour. The spokesman said Vietnam had been illegally exploring for oil and gas in Chinese territory and demanded that it stop all violations.

In late May, Vietnam said Chinese vessels severed an exploration cable of another Vietnamese survey ship.

Also Friday, the Philippines government called on all nations with claims in the South China Sea to halt “inflammatory statements” that could hamper a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

Chinese officials have rejected Vietnam's allegation and complaints from the Philippines about what Manila considers illegal Chinese intrusions into its waters. China says the South China Sea is Beijing's territory and has been for centuries.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia all claim parts of the South China Sea and scores of uninhabited islets and outcroppings in the region. In recent months, the Philippines and Vietnam have reported several incidents involving Chinese vessels within their 370-kilometer maritime exclusive economic zones.

The recent incidents are raising alarm among Southeast Asian nations, despite China's assertions that it favors peaceful economic cooperation in the South China Sea, and promises it will not resort to force to defend its interests in the region.

Both the Philippine and the Vietnam governments say they intend to defend their territorial waters.

The United States has called on all parties with claims in the South China Sea to resolve disputes peacefully and to ensure freedom of navigation in the crucial shipping route. Beijing says it will discuss disputes with other claimants bilaterally, but members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations want multilateral talks.