Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Tension remains high between Beijing, Manila and Hanoi over maritime borders in the South China Sea. Over the weekend in Singapore a meeting on Asia-Pacific security and the "incursions" by Chinese ships in waters around the Spratly and Paracel islands was held. Yesterday in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City tens of thousands of Vietnamese took to the streets in protest to claim legitimate ownership of the islands (and their vast natural resources).
In his speech in Singapore, Gen. Liang Guangli, China's Minister of Defense, stressed the peaceful intentions of Beijing, an argument immediately countered by the Vietnamese and Filipino delegates. The minister explained that China is not a "military threat", in spite of economic growth. "We [...] are not looking for hegemony or military expansion - added gen. Liang - ... This is a solemn promise made by the Chinese government to the international community. "
However, the assurances of China are rejected by both Vietnam and the Philippines. Phung Quang Thanh, Vietnamese Minister of Defense is concerned about the "incidents" in recent weeks in the South China Sea. Hanoi has apparently bought Russian submarines as a "deterrent" to defend their waters. The Manila counterpart has asked for U.S. intervention, which should "exercise the power of persuasion" toward China.
Voltaire Gazmin, Philippine Defense Minister, said the abuses of the Chinese navy, including the recent placement of construction material on a small island, which lies within Philippine territorial waters. The nations of Southeast Asia speak of a violation of the Code of Conduct - signed by China and ASEAN countries in 2002 - in the South China Sea and has submitted a formal protest against Beijing. In response, Chinese officials have warned Vietnam not to create a "new accident"
Yesterday, meanwhile, protest demonstrations in front of Chinese diplomatic missions in Vietnam were held in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In the capital, about 300 people marched to the Chinese embassy, waving placards and shouting slogans against Beijing seeting its sights on the Paracel and Spratly islands. One thousand, rather, the protesters who targeted the Chinese consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. The intervention of the police dispersed the protesters who had gathered in recent days through the Internet and text message campaigns on their mobile phones.
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 on the uninhabited, but very rich in resources and raw materials, Spratly and Paracel islands. Among the nations of the Asia-Pacific region, China is advancing the greatest demands on maritime boundaries. Its hegemony in the area is strategic for trade and exploitation of raw materials, including oil and natural gas. Beijing’s expansionist ambitions are being disputed by Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, the Sultanate of Brunei and Taiwan, as well as the defense of U.S. strategic interests in the area.