Published On: Fri, Dec 16th, 2016

Vietnam Weary of China’s Deployment of Arms on Artificial South China Sea Islands

nsnbc : Vietnam raised concerns over what it assumes are anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons systems by China on artificial islands in disputed South China Sea territories.

A satellite image shows what CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative says appears to be anti-aircraft guns and what are likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) on the artificial island Hughes Reef in the South China Sea in this image released on December 13, 2016. Courtesy CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe/

A satellite image shows what CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative says appears to be anti-aircraft guns and what are likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) on the artificial island Hughes Reef in the South China Sea in this image released on December 13, 2016. Courtesy CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe/

Le Hai Binh, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Friday that “Vietnam is very worried (to hear) about this information” about China’s apparent deployment of the weapons systems in disputed territories in the East Sea (Sector of the South China Sea bordering Vietnam).

He reiterated that Vietnam strongly opposes any activity that violates its sovereignty and militarizes the region, as well as any activity that could be “threatening peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea” He stressed that Vietnam has full legal grounds and historical evidence to prove its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos.

Foreign Minister Le Hai Binh’s statement followed a report published by CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, published earlier this week, featuring commercially available Digital Globe satellite images. The images show what appears to be anti-aircraft guns and what are likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) on the artificial island Hughes Reef in the South China Sea, reported CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency.

That is, Vietnam is concerned that China continues the militarization of the artificially created islands and the disputed territory in general. Earlier this year Vietnam complained about local elections held in disputed territories, denouncing it as China’s attempt of a de-facto annexation.

South China Sea_territorial Claims_Map_China_Vietnam_Malaysia_Brunei_Taiwan_Vietnam’s and several other of the nations that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea have also expressed concerns about the increased and illegal presence of Chinese fishing fleets in disputed waters and within these countries’ EEC’s. In many instances these fishing fleets were reportedly accompanied and “protected” by Chinese Coast Guard vessels. China, for its part, tries to downplay the issue by publishing images of small fishing boats in State media while omitting the presence of industrial scale fishing operations in the disputed and troubled waters.

Several analysts have stressed that China’s so-called nine-dashed-line and claims to most of the entire South China Sea while violating territorial claims of neighbors, including Vietnam’s EEZ  is highly counterproductive and unbecoming for a permanent UN Security Council member. The policy puts China’s neighbors in the awkward position where they may have to chose between cooperation with and in part submission to either the geopolitical interests of China or the USA. Ironically, both China and the USA are self-anointed permanent members of the UN Security Council whose most solemn role it should be to safeguard the sovereignty of other UN member states.

The Philippines, who also have a territorial dispute with China also expressed concerns about China’s militarization of the region or any militarization of the region in general. The administration of the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte noted that Manila will not issue a written diplomatic protest in response to the release of the satellite images but protest to China via a “note verbale”.

Vietnam’s position with regard to the disputed islands is such: In 1974, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the American troops from the Vietnam War, China invaded the Paracels. A brief but bloody naval battle with forces of the then U.S.-backed Republic of Vietnam ensued. Vietnam maintains that China illegally occupied the islands ever since, but a post-1975 united Vietnam has never relinquished its sovereignty. The Spratlys are claimed in part or whole by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

CH/L – nsnbc 16.12.2016

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