05/30/2011, 00.00
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Tensions between Beijing and Hanoi rise over maritime borders

by Nguyen Hung
The Vietnamese government accuses China of fuelling regional tensions. A Chinese ship cuts the cables of a Vietnamese ship. Beijing rejects the charges, claiming instead that its jurisdictional rights have been violated. Anger is growing in Vietnam over Chinese greed.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – The Vietnamese government has accused China of raising regional tensions by fuelling border and other territorial controversies. Hanoi made the charges at a rare press conference held on the weekend, after Vietnamese and Chinese ships were involved in an incident in the South China Sea. Inside Vietnam, anger is rising among ordinary people. In Ho Chi Minh City, many residents blame China for “invading Vietnamese waters” and threatening the “peace in the region.”

On Thursday, three Chinese ships allegedly violated Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty by entering its waters. The ships deliberately cut the cables of a Vietnamese survey ship, compromising the operations conducted by Petro Vietnam. The action comes on top of a series of “invasions” by Chinese ships in extra-territorial waters.

The episode occurred about 120 kilometres off the south-central coast of Vietnam, about 600 kilometres south of the Chinese island of Hainan.

Beijing has rejected the accusations, blaming instead Vietnam for the incident on the weekend. The Chinese government holds Vietnam responsible for the incident, saying its oil and gas operations "undermined China's interests and jurisdictional rights".

Among Asia-Pacific nations, China has the largest maritime claim, including the Spratly and Paracel Islands (see “Tokyo and Hanoi to challenge Chinese sovereignty in the East/South East China Sea,” in AsiaNews, 7 May 2010).

Chinese hegemony is strategic, aiming at controlling trade and raw materials. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are lined up against China’s expansionist designs, backed by the United States, which shares their interests.

In Ho Chi Minh City, many residents who spoke to AsiaNews accuse China “of evil actions aimed at invading Vietnam and threatening the peace among the nations of the region, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, India and Australia”.

Many Vietnamese are in fact upset by what they describe as the “greed of an atheistic Communist nation”.

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