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China enters Vietnam waters, bullying in South China Sea rises

China enters Vietnam waters, bullying in South China Sea rises

Paracel Islands, located equidistant from the coasts of Vietnam and China in the South China Sea, witnessed considerable action this week.

This Thursday, Vietnamese media reported that China is laying undersea cables in the islands which constitutes violation of the country's sovereignty. Reacting to this, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said: "Vietnam has sufficient historical evidence and legal grounds affirming its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes in accordance with international law.” Vietnam has placed numerous coast guard vessels in the vicinity, just as the Chinese have.

Just a day earlier, a Chinese ship chased and rammed a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The Chinese stole the fish, GPS, and other equipment from the Vietnamese ship. In April too, when the world was dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese Coast Guard had sunk a Vietnamese fishing vessel by ramming into it, near the Paracel Islands.

Tensions continue in the South China Sea between China and Vietnam, Phillippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei due to persistence aggression from the Chinese, who have usurped many disputed islands and stationed ships. China regularly intrudes into the EEZs of other countries.

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Vietnam has been actively raising the voice against the Chinese, but the country pays no heed to either Vietnam or international regulations. On the other hand, much like India, Vietnam continues to segregate such provocations to keep bilateral relations and trade intact. This allows Beijing to actively implement its policy of nibbling away into a neighbor's territory, setting up a military camp, repeating its actions and legitimizing them. One fine day, the neighbor realizes that it has lost a considerable portion of its territory to the Chinese strategy of sneaking in.

Even last year, China entered Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in an area called Vanguard Bank to conduct a geological survey. Hanoi took up the issue with China only after the later inched closer to its territory. After encountering a usual nonchalant Chinese response, Hanoi instructed its diplomatic missions to take up the matter with nearly a dozen countries and also the UN mission in New York.

Hanoi’s diplomatic outreach evoked strong support from numerous countries—the US, the European Union, Australia, and Japan. Hanoi even threatened to approach the International Court of Justice, the way Philippines had done in 2014.

Once again, most of these countries are at the forefront of taking on China for its role in letting the coronavirus infection spread by withholding information. The Chinese too have mounted a public offensive, particularly against the US and Australia, for asking it to come clean on the origins of the virus.

Experts believe that China only understands the language of force. Its bullying tactics have to be called out and retaliatory measures undertaken through a variety of measures. Vietnam, along with its South East Asian region neighbors is in a favorable position right now with the global climate against China. Internationally, many countries have been resolving their boundary disputes not on the basis of 1,000-year old histories and dubious claims, like China does, but on the basis of mature diplomatic talks.

Vietnam has already defeated the might Chinese in 1979 inflicting heavy casualties on its army. It has the support of the Asean countries, most of which have competing claims on the numerous islands in the South China Sea.

With China proactively rubbing nations to its south and south-east the wrong way, Vietnam can look forward to strengthening ties with the Quad—India, Australia, Japan, and the US, all of which are powerful countries. In recent months US warships have sailed through the South China Sea in a bid to impress upon China the fact that the waters are open territory.

The waterways hold importance not just for China and Asean countries but the entire world as these are busy shipping routes. Moreover, the region is reportedly rich in natural resources and India’s ONGC has been exploring for oil and gas in partnership with Vietnam—an act that has not gone down well with China.

The Vietnamese people have shown solidarity, often through acts of arson, with their government against the Chinese. Riots have happened on Vietnam streets against Chinese companies. An all-pervading anti-China ecosystem is building up against Chinese hegemony and Vietnam can benefit from that global sentiment..