Bloomberg News

Vietnam Boosts Presence in South China Sea, Targets Protests

November 25, 2011

(Adds prime minister’s comments in third paragraph.)

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Vietnam plans to continue building roads and schools to assert sovereignty on islands also claimed by China while moving to stifle any protests that display false patriotism, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said.

Vietnam will expand its presence on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and seek talks on the Paracels now occupied by China, Dung told the National Assembly today. The government also urged the legislature to pass a law on demonstrations after “signs of disorder” earlier this year, he said.

“We ask to keep the status quo, without further complications that may affect regional peace and stability,” Dung said. While the government “appreciates, welcomes and praises” any act of patriotism it will “discourage and tackle in accordance with law” any act that pretends to show patriotism, he said.

The Philippines, Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Taiwan have troops on the Spratlys, a group of islands and reefs with a total land area equivalent to 1 1/2 times the size of New York’s Central Park spread over an area roughly the size of Iraq. Vietnam occupies the most islands in this group, Dung said.

Chinese vessels in May sliced cables of a survey ship doing work for Vietnam and in March, Chinese ships chased away a ship working for U.K.-based Forum Energy Plc off the Philippines. The incident sparked anti-China protests in Vietnam that the government eventually quashed.

Vietnam and the Philippines have pushed China to redraw its maritime boundaries according to the United Nations Law of the Sea, a move that would cost it large swathes of its claims in the waters. Under the law, maritime claims stem from occupation of islands.

Oil reserves in the South China Sea, which contains two disputed island chains, may total as much as 213 billion barrels, according to Chinese studies cited in 2008 by the U.S. Energy Information Agency. The Paracels are fully controlled by China, which ousted fellow claimant Vietnam from the 30 islets and reefs in a 1974 battle in which 71 soldiers were killed.

--Daniel Ten Kate, with assistance from K. Oanh Ha in Hanoi. Editor: Mark Williams

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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