06/14/2011, 00.00
VIETNAM – UNITED STATES
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South China Sea: Hanoi and Washington to hold joint naval drill

Tensions are rising between China and Vietnam. Chinese analysts urge their government to flex its muscles. Vietnamese PM issues call-up decree in case of war. The last conflict between the two nations goes back to 1979.
Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Vietnam will hold joint naval drills with the United States next month, a move that could further stoke tensions with China over the South China Sea. Meanwhile, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued a decree about a potential military call-up, which outlines who would be exempt from the draft in case of war. Vietnam’s last war was with China in 1979.

Confirmation of the exercises came as Hanoi completed a live-fire exercise off its central coast last night, deemed routine by the Vietnamese but denounced by Chinese analysts as a provocation and a show of force.

Ji Qiufeng, a professor at Nanjing University's school of foreign relations, said Beijing needs to make it clear to Vietnam that “any challenge to China's sovereignty over the South China Sea cannot succeed”.

US Seventh Fleet officials confirmed a US destroyer would head to Da Nang next month for a search and rescue exercise as part of a pattern of annual drills with regional allies and partners in recent months that have included Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippine navy.

However, Beijing will closely monitor the presence of US Navy ships in an area in the South China Sea recently claimed by China.

Recent minor encroachments by Chinese boats and clashes with Filipino and Vietnamese ships have sparked protests by the Philippines and Vietnam and generated street protests.

Among the nations of the Asia-Pacific region, China has the most extensive claims in the South China Sea, which includes the uninhabited Spratly and Paracel Islands, with rich fishing grounds and important oil and gas reserves.

Beijing’s claims also reflect its strategic goal of hegemonic control over trade and mineral development, above all oil and natural gas.

Chinese demands have not gone unchallenged. Contenders include Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, as well as the United States, which has its own strategic interests in the region.

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