Vietnam Takes Delivery of New Warship

Posted August 22nd, 2011 at 1:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Vietnam has taken ownership of the second of two Russian-made guided missile warships, expanding its naval firepower as a tense standoff continues with China over disputed territories in the South China Sea.

The state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper carried photos Monday of the helicopter-capable warship docked in the port of Cam Ranh, on Vietnam's south-central coast. The first such frigate reached Vietnam in March.

The latest warship — part of a 2009 purchase from Russia — boosts Vietnam's naval presence just days after China completed preliminary sea trials on its first aircraft carrier.

The naval buildup comes as both countries press competing claims to South China Sea territories thought to be rich in mineral resources.

Beijing claims sovereignty over the entire sea, putting it at odds with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, which claim waters adjacent to their shores. Vietnam and the Philippines say Chinese naval vessels have interfered in recent months with oil and gas exploration in waters they claim as their exclusive economic zones.

Beijing has responded with stern warnings that it will use military force, if necessary, to enforce its claims in the region.

The disputes dominated last month's annual ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian nations, ASEAN. The grouping has sought a set of international guidelines that could eventually lead to a binding code of conduct for handling South China Sea disputes.