06/04/2011, 00.00
VIETNAM - CHINA - PHILIPPINES
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Vietnamese take to streets against Beijing’s incursions in the South China Sea

Born on line, the protest sees people picket diplomatic missions in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The Philippine government announces a protest to the United Nations. United States also concerned as China sets its sights on Spratly and Paracel islands.

Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Bloggers and Internet users in Vietnam have launched an online protest against Beijing "provocations" in the South China Sea. Protests are shceduled to take place tomorrow in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, in the wake of clashes between the two countries' ships off the coast of Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Philippines has announced its intention to sign a formal protest to the United Nations, accusing China of "incursions" in the Archipelago’s territorial waters.

Through social networks including Facebook (photo: Picture of the campaign), blogs and text messages, the Vietnamese are gathering tomorrow, outside the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi and the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. The protesters will carry banners condemning Beijing’s "provocative" behavior on the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea. The protesters came from all sectors of Vietnamese society, regardless of age or political beliefs. This is the second public protest in Vietnam against the Chinese giant. In 2007 hundreds of people surrounded the embassy in Hanoi to support the claims of the government to the uninhabited, resource rich Spratly and Paracel islands.

Among the nations of the Asia-Pacific region, China is increasing its demands on maritime borders, including the Spratly Islands and Paracel archipelago (cf. AsiaNews, 07/05/2010 Tokyo and Hanoi to challenge Chinese sovereignty in the East/South East China Sea). Its hegemony is of strategic importance for trade and the exploitation of raw materials, including vast reserves of oil and natural gas. Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, the Sultanate of Brunei and Taiwan, all dispute the expansionist ambitions of Beijing, while the US also has strategic interests in the area.

The Philippine government will make a formal protest to the United Nations regarding the disputed islands. The decision, endorsed by President Benigno Aquino, is the result of the repeated incursions of Beijing’s ships in the territorial waters of the Philippines, to build positions and strengthen their ambitions in the area. The Chinese Embassy in Manila rejected the accusations, but confirmed the presence of their boats to conduct "normal maritime research activities."

Tensions in the South China Sea will be one of the issues addressed at the regional summit held in Singapore which began last night.  The three days of meetings includes teh presence of U.S. Secretary of State for Defense Robert Gates, at a time when relations between Washington and Beijing appear to be faltering. The summit will be attended by hundreds of senior military officers, intelligence officials, arms manufacturers and analysts.

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