Vietnam protests Taiwan military flight to Spratlys

 http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/world/view/20080124-114574/Vietnam-protests-Taiwan-military-flight-to-Spratlys

HANOI — Vietnam on Thursday protested a Taiwanese military flight to one of the disputed Spratly Islands, amid reports of a planned visit there by Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian.

Taiwan on Monday for the first time sent a military aircraft, a C-130 transport plane, to one of the Spratly islands for a one-day return trip, a defense official in Taipei said Wednesday.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia and the Philippines claim all or part of the potentially oil-rich Spratlys.

“Vietnam requests Chinese Taipei to stop immediately this action and to stop similar actions in the region,” said Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung, using the name by which communist China refers to Taiwan.

Dung told a media briefing that “Vietnam resolutely opposes all acts violating the sovereignty of Vietnam” over the Spratlys and the Paracels, another disputed island group in the South China Sea.

The Taipei-based United Daily News reported Chen was planning a trip to the Spratlys before the March 22 presidential election to underscore Taipei’s claim to the archipelago.

Chen, who is to retire in May after eight years in office, planned to take an air force C-130 transport aircraft to the Taiping islet, the biggest island in the Spratlys, the newspaper said.

The trip, if it goes ahead, would likely trigger protests from claiming countries.

Taiwan’s defense ministry began building a 1,150-meter (3,773-feet) runway on the fortified Taiping islet in mid-2006, despite protests from Vietnam, and the project has been completed, the paper said.

All claimants except Brunei have troops based on the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which have a total land mass of less than five square kilometers (two square miles).

Taiwan president to visit disputed Spratly islands

TAIPEI, Jan 20, 2008 (AFP) –

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian is planning a visit to the Spratly islands in the South China Sea to underscore Taipei’s claim to the disputed group, it was reported Sunday, in a move that is sure to spark tensions in the region.

The trip, which would come before presidential polls on March 22, is aimed at drumming up support for Frank Hsieh, the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate in the election, the Taipei-based United Daily News said.

Chen, who is to retire in May after eight years in office, plans to take an air force C-130 transport aircraft to the Taiping Islet, the biggest island in the Spratlys, the newspaper said without citing its source.

It added that since the F-16s could not fully protect Chen during his trip to the islet, which is some 1,600 kilometres (960 miles) from Taiwan’s southern Kaohsiung city, the navy would send a fleet to the Spratlys led by a Kidd-class destroyer.

Presidential Office spokesman Lee Nan-yang would not confirm the visit. “The president visits various troop units before the Lunar New Year each year,” he told AFP.

“He may do so this year to boost military morale, but we’ve yet to receive this year’s visit plan from the defence ministry.”

If it takes place, the trip would lead to protests from neighbouring countries — including its rival China — which also lay claim to the islands, the daily said.

Taiwan’s defence ministry began building a 1,150-metre-long (3,795-feet) runway in the fortified Taiping islet in mid-2006, despite protest from Vietnam, and the project is nearly complete, it said.

The DPP suffered a humiliating defeat in parliamentary elections on January 12, with the major opposition Kuomintang and its smaller allies winning 86 of 113 seats. Chen immediately resigned as DPP chairman.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia, and the Philippines claim all or part of the potentially oil-rich Spratlys.

All claimants except Brunei have troops based on the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which have a total land mass of less than five square kilometres (two square miles).

China should return islands to Vietnam

 http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/letters/story.html?id=90178b44-4647-4f9a-9eb5-9744d9b8f567

China has created a colossal new city called Sansha in the Hainan province. This city would encompass the archipelagoes of Paracels (Hoang Sa in Vietnamese) and Spratly (Truong Sa) in the South China Sea. These islands have long been considered part of Vietnam by the former regime in South Vietnam as well as its predecessors.

This action is the culmination of a chain of brazen manoeuvres taken by the People’s Republic of China to gradually take away Vietnamese territory. Specifically, the People’s Republic of China sent its navy on Jan. 19, 1974, to take over Hoang Sa; took over Truong Sa on March 14, 1988, annexed Truong Sa and Hoang Sa to the Province of Hainan on April 14, 1988; and annexed the historical Nam Quan Pass and the Ban Gioc Falls in North Vietnam in 2000.

The Vietnamese Communist regime itself is responsible for the losses of Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty:

– Vietnamese Communist prime minister Pham Van Dong, in an official correspondence dated Sept. 14, 1958 with the People’s Republic of China’s government, “recognized and agreed with the government of the People’s Republic of China’s announcement on Sept. 4, 1958, defining the territorial waters of China” (to include the Spratly and Paracel archipelagoes);

– The Vietnamese Communist government remained silent when China took over Hoang Sa after a fierce battle with the navy of the former Republic of Vietnam on Jan. 19, 1974;

– The Vietnamese Communist Party secretly signed in 1999 an agreement with the Chinese government to cede Vietnam’s sovereignty over the historical Nam Quan Pass, the Ban Gioc Falls in North Vietnam, and a substantial portion of the Vietnamese territorial waters in the Gulf of Tonkin.

The Vietnamese Canadian Federation condemns the People’s Republic of China’s world hegemony strategy and denounces the collusion of the Vietnamese Communist regime. We call upon all peace-loving and justice-upholding countries in the world to press the People’s Republic of China to return these islands to Vietnam.

Vietnam is in danger of becoming China’s next Tibet. Unfortunately, with Chinese authorities as its key mentor, the current Vietnamese Communist regime is in no position to fight back China’s gradual encroachment upon Vietnam’s territory.

Danh T. Nguyen, Ottawa

Vietnamese Canadian Federation

TO UNDERSTAND MODERN VIETNAM, LOOK TO ITS CONFUCIAN PAST

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/23/IN6BU1MRT.DTL

Vietnamese students are in the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City protesting what they call a renewed Chinese “invasion” of the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the oil-and-gas-rich South China Sea. Their last war was a brief one in 1979, though less than two decades ago a confrontation near the Spratlys left several dozen Vietnamese dead.

Vietnam claims the islands because they are off its coast, but with so many resources under the sea, several other nations in the region claim them as well, most forcefully China.

There has long been an intense love-hate relationship between these two countries, who share a border as long as that between the United States and Mexico. China’s influence began in the second century B.C. and actually increased after Vietnam won its independence a millennium later. Many Vietnamese today play down this heritage, and only 3 to 5 percent of 85 million Vietnamese are identified as ethnic Chinese. Vietnam does have its own very specific identity. Still, as Vietnam National University law Professor Pham Duy Nghia has argued, to understand contemporary Vietnam, one must look back to its Confucian past.

Vietnam’s war with the United States was a terrible and destructive experience, but it has far less significance for Vietnam today and tomorrow than the deeply rooted Confucian-based culture. Vietnam’s reforms are themselves in many ways closely patterned on those launched almost 30 years ago in China and, despite periodic disputes relations between the two, are expanding exponentially.

The cultural heritage stands out in many ways. Most obviously, there is the elitist government that sees governance in moral terms and maintains a paternalistic relationship between rulers and ruled. Since it launched reforms in 1986, the Vietnamese government has set high goals to be achieved by pragmatic economic change, rapidly improved education and a strong goal-oriented work ethic, encumbered by corruption.

Other Confucian-influenced governments in East and Southeast Asia preceded Vietnam in exploiting these qualities and became Asia’s economic “dragons” and “tigers,” most moving in time beyond traditional Confucian institutional authoritarianism to some form of democratic governance. Countries in Asia without the Confucian background have had much less success with reforms.

Today, Vietnam is still a rapidly growing tiger cub, so to speak, because it got started late in its market-oriented reforms. This was because Le Duan, who succeeded Ho Chi Minh as Communist Party boss in 1969, rejected reconciliation at the end of the war in favor of a brutal campaign of reprisals. He further centralized the economy and focused his persecution especially on the Chinese-Vietnamese entrepreneurs who had made what was then Saigon so prosperous. Hundreds of thousands fled across or into the sea as “boat people.”

When Le Duan finally died in 1986, Vietnamese pragmatists launched the “renovation” (doi moi) program that is remaking Vietnam today. While doi moi does not include democratization, as the continuing harassment and imprisonment of political dissidents demonstrates, it does recognize the need for the greater individual opportunity and personal initiative that in some other countries have in time resulted in more democratic governance.

Vietnamese and Chinese leaders today are pragmatic and know they have too many common roots and interests, bilateral and beyond, to get sidetracked into real conflict, even over oil in the South China Sea.

William Ratliff is a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and author of the forthcoming book “Getting Down to Business in Vietnam: Entrepreneurship in Asia’s Tiger Cub” (Independent Institute).

Tuoi Tre Chung Toi – Hoang Sa – Truong Sa

Youth delegates grill government on key issues

http://www.thanhniennews.com/education/?catid=4&newsid=34357

Vietnamese youth need to develop a long-term vision and self-motivation and master information and technology if they want to be a part of globalization and the knowledge economy, a deputy prime minister said Thursday.

In the first-ever direct dialogue between the government and members of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, held on the sidelines of the union’s 9th National Congress, Nguyen Thien Nhan, who is also the Minister of Education and Training, called on more young people to venture into business.

But for that, the deeply-etched belief that “entering university is the only way to career success” needed to go, he pointed out.

The government was working on a project to help those not choosing to pursue a university degree start up or develop their own business, he told them.

Members of the youth union challenged the deputy PM and other senior officials on a wide range of topics including the sluggishness in administrative reform, the role of the youth union in the Government’s policy in dealing with road safety, and employment for young people who complete their army service.

Replying to the question on administrative reform, Nhan admitted that the work to eliminate red tape was still far from satisfactory for the public, saying any ideas put for-ward by the union to accelerate the process were welcome.

He acknowledged that performance-based salaries and good allowances were vital to ensure highly-qualified young people in Government offices remained dedicated.

Some of the youth delegates called for more contribution from youths for soldiers deployed in the Paracels-Spartly Archipelago.

The appeal found almost unanimous support from the others.

There was also a suggestion that the youth union should organize more exchanges with the soldiers in the archipelago to educate all students about the situation there.

Reported by Dang Long

Vietnam calls for end to anti-China protests

http://thepost.com.pk/IntNews.aspx?dtlid=135164&catid=1

AFP HANOI: Vietnam’s government Thursday called on its people to end anti-China protests over the countries’ rival claims in the South China Sea.

Several hundred people marched in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday for the second consecutive weekend in the long-simmering dispute over the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos.

Police prevented about 300 demonstrators in the capital and around 100 in the southern port city formerly called Saigon from protesting outside China’s embassy and consulate.

But Beijing Tuesday said it was “highly concerned” and called on the Vietnamese government to “take a responsible attitude and effective measures to stop this and prevent bilateral ties from being hurt.”

“Authorities have also requested the people to end this kind of action,” Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung told reporters Thursday.

“Vietnam also pursues the policy to settle all disputes through negotiations,” Dung said, assuring Beijing that the authorities “have taken the necessary measures to ensure the safety for the diplomatic mission and maintain the social order.”

Chinese local official denies plan to designate islands as city – HK paper

(BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific) Text of report by Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post website on 19 December

[Report by Kristine Kwok: “Plan To Designate Islands a City Denied”]

The diplomatic row with Vietnam over the designation of disputed islands at China’s southern tip as a city took another turn yesterday when a Hainan official denied such a plan was on the agenda.

A Wenchang government representative said there was no plan to set up Sansha, a 2.6 million sq km county-level city to govern China’s claims in the Spratly and Paracel islands, a source of territorial disputes between China and its Southeast Asian neighbours.

It had been reported that Wenchang would administer Sansha, an abbreviation for Xisha, Nansha and Zhongsha, the terms Beijing uses to refer to territory it claims in the two island groups.

“There is no such thing. In Hainan, we only have Sanya, but not Sansha,” the official said.

Another official from the Hainan provincial government said the authorities had not received any documentation from the central government on redesignating the area as a city.

News that Beijing ratified a plan last month to create Sansha was first reported by Vietnamese media and followed up overseas. In sharp contrast to the attention outside China, no mainstream mainland media have covered the issue, which would otherwise be a source of pride.

But the reports have been discussed in many internet chat rooms and widely circulated through personal blogs. In one of the few available reports by mainland media, www.voc.com.cn , a website affiliated with the official Hunan Daily , said the new city would administer a quarter of China’s total area.

It also said the Wenchang government had pledged in a Communist Party Committee meeting it would promote the State Council’s plan to change the status of the islands.

But the Foreign Ministry gave a rather vague response yesterday when asked to confirm such a plan, with spokesman Qin Gang saying it was normal for China to conduct activities in its own territory.

Mr Qin said Beijing was concerned by anti-China protests in Vietnam over the past two weekends in response to the alleged Sansha plans.

“We require the Vietnamese government to take practical and effective measures to prevent the situation from getting worse,” he said.

Rallies in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday attracted several hundred demonstrators and followed similar protests in the cities a week earlier. Analysts said the protests were the most damaging in the relationship between China and Vietnam, where demonstrations are a rarity.

A territorial dispute between the neighbours in 1979 sparked a brief border war.

Zhang Xizhen, of Peking University’s School of International Relations, said the border war remained a scar between the two countries despite warming trade and political ties.

But Anthony Wong Dong, chairman of the International Military Association in Macau , said a more pressing issue than the scars of history was the right to explore energy in the disputed areas. The Spratlys and Paracels are claimed, in part or in full, by the mainland, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, and are believed to have oil and gas reserves.

China, Vietnam clash over lonely islands

 http://www.nationalpost.com/news/world/story.html?id=175296

Vietnam and China have plunged into a new war of words over Asia’s most hotly contested pieces of real estate, the Spratly Islands.

For the second week in a row, hundreds of Vietnamese nationalists have been holding rare public demonstrations outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and the Chinese consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.

Shouting anti-Chinese slogans and singing patriotic songs, they accuse China of staging a creeping invasion of the Spratlys, which have become one of Asia’s major potential flashpoints.

Most of the islands are low-lying coral reefs and rocky outcrops in the middle of the South China Sea, home to little more than a few dozen seabirds. Some of them are so small they are covered at high tide.

Yet the island chain is strategically located in the centre of one of Asia’s largest potential reservoirs for oil and natural gas, and surrounded by rich fishing grounds.

Six nations, including China, have staked overlapping claims to the 200 islands, rocks and reefs that make up the chain.

Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei have claims to some of the islands, while China claims sovereignty over them all. Taiwan’s claim is similar to China’s.

There have been numerous military skirmishes in the past 30 years to reinforce the conflicting claims, the most serious in 1976, when China invaded and captured a nearby island chain, the Paracel Islands, from Vietnam.

Twelve years later, the two countries clashed again as their navies waged a brief battle off Johnson Reef in the Spratlys. Several Vietnamese boats were sunk and more than 70 sailors died.

Since then, Beijing and Hanoi have tried to ease tensions by promising to seek a diplomatic solution.

But China has continued to build military installations on some of the islands and reefs, insisting they are only shelters for Chinese fishermen.

More recently, the legislature in Beijing ratified a plan to manage the Paracels and Spratlys as a new administrative district of Hainan province, turning the islands into a new “county-level city” called Sansha.

That has infuriated Vietnam, which tried last spring to let drilling and pipeline rights for a US$2-billion gas field to energy giant BP in an area of the Spratlys off its southern coast.

When Beijing accused Hanoi of infringing Chinese territory, the company decided to halt exploration work.

Still, Vietnam insists many of the Spratly Islands lie within the bounds of its sovereignty and it resents China’s claims, which are backed by an assertive new nationalism and one of its biggest military spending sprees ever.

Regional rivalries take on an added geopolitical importance because the islands straddle Asia’s most vital seal lanes.

About 25% of world shipping passes through the region, carrying Middle East oil to Japan and the western United States.

Washington’s alliances and defence agreements with countries in the region could drag the United States into a confrontation with China if the conflict over the Spratlys turns violent.

That concerns Washington, because in 1995 the U.S. Naval War College ran a series of computer war games simulating a conflict with China over the South China Sea, and in each case China won.

Since then, Beijing has spent billions modernizing and expanding its navy with an eye to a possible confrontation in the Spratlys.

China has filled a virtual power vacuum in the South China Sea after the end of the Cold War and the withdrawal of the former Soviet Union’s navy from Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay and the U.S. withdrawal from Subic Bay in the Philippines.

As if to assert that fact, China infuriated Vietnam by staging a naval exercise in the South China Sea in November near the Paracels.

Now, Beijing is accusing Vietnam of threatening relations between the two countries by permitting street demonstrations in front of the Chinese embassy for two weekends in a row.

The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry insists the protests were spontaneous and quickly ended by police.

But a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “We are highly concerned over the matter. We hope the Vietnamese government will take a responsible attitude and effective measures to stop this and prevent bilateral ties from being hurt.”

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