Vietnam Launches Naval Maneuvers As Tensions With China Grow

Posted June 13th, 2011 at 9:35 am (UTC-5)
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Vietnam launched military drills in the South China Sea Monday, firing naval guns off its central coast as a maritime dispute with neighboring China intensifies.

The live-fire maneuvers, which lasted about four hours, took place near an unoccupied island about 40 kilometers off the coast of Quang Nam province. Hanoi said more drills would take place late Monday. The navy said the exercises involve artillery and other weapons, but said no missiles would be fired.

The drills, described by Hanoi as routine, come as diplomatic and military tensions with Beijing rise over competing territorial claims to two energy-rich archipelagos also claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. In addition to their reputed mineral resources, the Paracel Islands and the Spratlys straddle strategic international shipping lanes.

Chinese state media called the Vietnamese maneuvers a test of Beijing's resolve after two recent incidents in which Chinese vessels interfered with oil exploration ships operating within an area Vietnam claims as its exclusive economic zone.

China claims jurisdiction over the waters where the incidents took place and has warned Vietnam not to provoke matters.

Vietnam charges that in the first incident late last month, Chinese naval craft deliberately cut a cable trailing from an exploration ship. China says the second incident was an accident in which a fishing boat became entangled in an exploration cable.

About 100 people staged an anti-Chinese protest in Hanoi Sunday for the second successive week to protest China's actions.