Vietnam protests over Chinese “invasion plans”

Beijing dismisses online threats
South China Morning Post
September 5, 2008
Greg Torode and Shi Jiangtao

Vietnam has formally protested to China over so-called “invasion plans” appearing on mainland websites that purport to detail the complete military occupation of the country by China.

Hanoi has twice summoned senior Chinese diplomats to voice its concerns over the material which, while unsourced and apparently unofficial, has alarmed diplomatic and military elites in the Vietnamese capital after appearing repeatedly over the past month.

A map detailing alleged Chinese plans to invade Vietnam.

A map detailing alleged Chinese plans to invade Vietnam.

The supposed plans detail a 31-day invasion, starting with five days of missile strikes from land, sea and air and climaxing in an invasion involving 310,000 troops sweeping into Vietnam from Yunnan, Guangxi and the South China Sea. The electronic jamming of Vietnamese command and communications centres is mentioned, along with the blocking of sea lanes in the South China Sea.

“Vietnam is a major threat to the safety of Chinese territories, and the biggest obstacle to the peaceful emergence of China,” the plans posted on and at least three other websites say.

“Also, Vietnam is the strategic hub of the whole of Southeast Asia. Vietnam has to be conquered first if Southeast Asia is to be under [China’s] control again.”

“From all perspectives, Vietnam is a piece of bone hard to be swallowed.”

In a statement to the South China Morning Post, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung confirmed Beijing officials had been asked “to act so that such negative articles will not appear again since these may be harmful to bilateral relations”.

“This is irrelevant information which goes against the trend of peace, friendship and co-operation for development in the region and the world and is not in the interests of the fine relationship existing between Vietnam and China,” Mr Dung said.

He added that China acknowledged Vietnam’s request and “stated that the article did not reflect the position of the government of China”.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing, meanwhile, said the “different voices” on the internet represented individual acts “by only a handful of people, which by no means represented China’s stance”.

“The Chinese government attaches importance to the development of Sino-Vietnamese relations and is actively committed to strengthening publicity of the Sino-Vietnamese friendship,” he said.

Vietnamese government sources said they were perplexed that articles remained online, as they believed China actively policed the content of mainland sites.

Many officials believe the articles may have been sparked by rising tensions over the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing has recently been trying to pressure international oil firms into pulling out of their exploration contracts with Vietnam.

The Post reported in July that Chinese envoys had warned ExxonMobil – the world’s largest oil firm – that its future mainland business could be at risk unless it pulled out of deals in Vietnam’s southern and central oil fields. ExxonMobil executives say Vietnam’s legal position is strong.

Song Xiaojun, a Beijing-based military expert, described the internet-based plans, one of which was subtitled “One battle to set the region in order”, as a joke.

“It is, at most, a game by a few military amateurs and it has no military value at all,” he said.

He said there were still some people in both countries who could not forget the nations’ old animosities.

“China and Vietnam have similar political systems and should unite to counter the US, which is the common enemy for both countries,” he said. “Clearly the US tries to play Vietnam off against the rising China.”

Mr Song described US company ExxonMobil’s oil exploration work in the South China Sea as provocative.

“We should be on the alert for possible conspiracy theories behind the so-called invasion plan and other provocative stuff. Sensible people in both countries are well aware that China has no reason to think of invading Vietnam as it needs to make good friends with its neighbours.”

He said the mainland government should also learn a lesson from the issue.

“Authorities should be responsible to guide public opinion towards other countries and make its own stance on confusing issues clear and understood. The government should not leave any chances for troublemakers and harmful speculations.”

Carl Thayer, a veteran Vietnamese military analyst at the Australian National University, said it was unthinkable that China
would consider such an invasion in the modern regional context, but he warned that the case highlighted the potential for “extreme nationalism” on both sides.

“It may well become part of a tit-for-tat trend. China objects to anti-Beijing protests in Hanoi and then Vietnam feels it must react to something like this,” Dr Thayer said.

Current Vietnamese military strategy has long been geared towards deterring China from backing its territorial claims by force, he said.

China is Vietnam’s biggest source of imports and both governments have worked to rebuild ties in recent years, despite lingering tensions after the brief but bloody border conflict of 1979.

As well as deepening fraternal ties between communist party leaders, both sides have made progress in solving disputes over the 1,400km land border and the Gulf of Tonkin. Rival claims to the potentially oil-rich grounds beneath the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea remain a key point of friction, however.

Source: South China Morning Post


Vietnam aims to limit 2008 inflation at 25 pc -govt

HANOI: Vietnam, which has been grappling with soaring inflation, aims to limit the rise in consumer prices for the whole year to 25 per cent, the government said.

Consumer prices in the Southeast Asian country of 86.5 million people, jumped 28.3 per cent last month from a year ago, mainly due to a spike in food and fuel prices.

“Our objective is to unite our force and mind to strive to achieve a growth of 7 per cent and inflation at 25 per cent,” Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told a cabinet meeting in Hanoi this week.

“The policy of tightening credit must be continued, but with flexibility in order to accommodate businesses,” a government report seen Friday quoted Dung as saying.

Dung asked the government to keep the monthly trade deficit – due mainly to high oil prices as the country relies on refined product imports – to under $1 billion between now and the end of the year to bring annual trade gap this year to under $20 billion.

The Communist Party government is facing its biggest economic test since market liberalisation began in earnest in the mid-1990s. It has cut growth targets to 6.5-7 per cent from around 8 per cent previously and raised interest rates three times this year to fight double-digit inflation.

In July the Asian Development Bank revised Vietnam’s annual inflation this year up to 19.4 per cent, from 18.3 per cent previously estimated.

Vietnam aims to limit 2008 inflation at 25 pc -govt

US-Vietnam meeting on Agent Orange opens

Hanoi – US and Vietnamese experts and officials opened a weeklong meeting Monday in Hanoi on US aid to remediate the effects of Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant the United States sprayed during the Vietnam War. US Ambassador Michael Michalak welcomed the fact that the Vietnamese had “begun to focus on facts and answers rather than blame,” and hailed their “desire to find mutually acceptable solutions.”

Vietnam has long claimed that millions of its citizens suffer cancer, birth defects and other health problems resulting from exposure to Agent Orange, which contained high levels of the toxic chemical dioxin. The United States sprayed millions of gallons of the defoliant from airplanes to clear away jungles used as camouflage by communist troops during the Vietnam War.

The United States said it is impossible to link dioxin from Agent Orange to any specific cases of illness, and American scientists generally consider Vietnamese estimates of the number of victims exaggerated.

Nguyen Minh Y, head of international relations at the Vietnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange, said he hoped the meeting could “work out a way to help the victims forget about the pain” but called US aid so far “a drop in the bucket.”

“Their aid has not proven effective,” Y said. “Most of the money has been paid to the staff working in their projects while Agent Orange victims have not benefited from their projects.

“Recent studies have shown that dioxin levels across Vietnam are normal but that “hot spots” remain, particularly near former US airbases where Agent Orange was handled. In 2007, the US Congress approved 3 million dollars for projects to seal contaminated soil and take other remediation measures.

The US government has been willing to provide aid to disabled Vietnamese, provided that the aid is not viewed as compensation for Agent Orange. A coalition of US and Vietnamese foundations and non-governmental organizations has set up a group, the US-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange, to coordinate broader American aid.

US soldiers exposed to Agent Orange have received compensation since the 1980s from the chemical companies that manufactured it, but no Vietnamese have been compensated. In February a US Court of Appeals dismissed a suit by several dozen ill Vietnamese against the chemical companies.