Vietnam protests planned Taiwanese Spratlys visit

Hanoi – Vietnam’s government has asked Taiwan to call off a planned inspection tour of the disputed Spratly Islands, one of two archipelagos in the South China sea claimed by several countries in the region, local press reported Tuesday.

‘Vietnam resolutely objects to all activities violating its sovereignty over the two archipelagos,’ government spokesman Le Dung said.

Taiwanese Defence Minister Tsai Ming-hsien was scheduled to visit the Spratlys on Monday before postponing the trip due to bad weather.

Vietnam, Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei each claim all or part of the Spratlys and the nearby Paracels, and all but Brunei have a military presence on one or more of the atolls. Taiwan has built an airstrip on the largest of the islands, while Vietnam has stationed sailors on another.

The waters around the islands are believed to contain substantial petroleum reserves.

Conflict over the islands began heating up in November, when China established a new government district, called Sansha, to administer them. Vietnam officially protested the Chinese move, and Vietnamese students staged rare spontaneous protests in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City asserting Vietnamese sovereignty.

To avoid military clashes in the region, China, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand signed the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

The declaration commits the parties to resolving the islands’ status through negotiations, and provides for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Taiwan is not a signatory to the declaration because China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has barred Taiwan from attending official meetings on the Spratlys.

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).

Manila, Beijing agree fishing deal on disputed area

MANILA, Jan 11 (Reuters) – The Philippines and China have agreed to set up a common fishing area in the disputed South China Sea, the head of the Philippine House of Representatives said on Friday, hoping it would reduce tension in the area.

House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr said the two countries could expand the fisheries agreement by asking other Southeast Asian states, particularly Vietnam, to take part in the cooperative fishing activities.

“This will turn an area of potential conflict into a zone of peace and development,” de Venecia said in a statement, a day after he met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing.

In the late 1990s, a Philippine Navy warship opened fire on three Chinese fishing boats near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, accusing Chinese fishermen of poaching in its territorial waters.

Vietnamese troops stationed on one of the contested islands in the Spratlys had also opened fire on a Philippine fishing boat when it tried to seek shelter during a typhoon.

De Venecia said the creation of common fishing areas in the disputed waters of the South China Sea would help lessen tension in these disputed areas, preventing undue arrests of fishermen from China and Southeast Asian states.

Poaching and illegal fishing have been a traditional irritant among the six claimant states in the South China Sea.

De Venecia said the fisheries deal could also boost existing cooperation among China, the Philippines and Vietnam to conduct scientific research and studies to discover oil, gas and minerals within the Spratlys.

China, Vietnam and Taiwan have conflicting territorial claims over the entire South China Sea while Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines are claiming parts of the Spratlys.

In the late 1980s, China and Vietnam fought over several tiny and uninhabited isles in the Paracels and Spratlys, resulting in the sinking of three Vietnamese Navy boats, killing at least 72 sailors.

Last month, nationalist street demonstrations were held in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and consulate building in Ho Chi Minh over the long-running dispute on ownership of South China Sea islands.

On Wednesday, De Venecia had called on the three states to start oil exploration in disputed waters in the Spratlys due to rising crude oil prices in the world market. China, Vietnam and the Philippines are heavily dependent on imported crude oil.

In 2002, China signed a non-binding code of conduct agreement with the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh, helping ease tension after they agreed to a ban on military activities in the Spratlys. (Reporting by Manny Mogato, editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)


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

Vietnam calls for end to anti-China protests

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.”

Little Saigon crowd takes protest against China to L.A.

Vietnamese Americans rally against Chinese occupation of islands in Asia.

A large group left Little Saigon this morning in six buses and two minivans, said Loi Cao, one of the protest organizers.

Protesters had also rallied in Little Saigon over the same issue Saturday afternoon. A recent move by the Chinese government to include three of the islands to form a Chinese county sparked the string of protests here and in Vietnam.

The ownership of this cluster of more than 200 islands rich in oil and gas deposits has been a subject of debate among several Southeast Asian nations that border the islands.

Protesters in Los Angeles held banners and shouted anti-communist slogans, said Truong Diep, a Midway City Sanitary District board member, adding that he was there to observe the rally. They shouted slogans in Vietnamese, such as “Down with Red China” and “Stop the Chinese Land Grab,” Diep said.

On Sunday, protesters said they were upset that the Vietnamese government is doing little to stop the Chinese occupation of the islands. However, Associated Press news reports state that Vietnam’s Communist Party did criticize China’s military exercises on Paracel Islands through its newspaper, Nhan Dhan.

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, , 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.

Spratlys row gives Vietnam youth a taste for protest – Feature

Hanoi – For two weekends in a row, hundreds of young people have marched and chanted in the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, waving protest banners and dodging phalanxes of helmeted riot police. The cause they are demonstrating for is one the government approves: Vietnam’s claim that it, and not China, owns the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

But authorities are trying to tamp down the protests, which threaten to damage relations with Vietnam’s giant northern neighbour and to encourage students to participate in politics in other ways.

For their part, the students are elated.

“I was so happy to be able to raise my voice,” said 24-year-old university student Nguyen Van Nhat, who marched with the protestors in Hanoi last Sunday. “I think it’s the right thing for me to do.”

The protests were triggered by China’s decision earlier this month to establish an official locality, called Sansha, which it claims administers the Spratlys and Paracels. Vietnam officially protested the move on December 3, as government spokesman Le Dung said the issue should be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

The demonstrations in front of the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi and the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City began the following Sunday. The fact that police tolerated the first demonstration for roughly an hour before dispersing it led to speculation that it had been instigated by the government.

In fact, the protests appear to have been largely spontaneous, organized by students through blogs, online communities and mobile phone messaging, with some participation by veteran pro-democracy activists and dissidents.

“We found out about the demonstration through blogs and emails,” said 23-year-old student protestor Ngo Quynh. “I joined the demonstration based on my love for Vietnam.”

Vietnamese have used blogs like (named for the Vietnamese term for the Paracels) and networking sites like Yahoo360 to spread the word about the demonstrations. The blogs have continued to discuss the Spratlys issue furiously.

A number of democracy activists were also active in the demonstrations. They include Le Quoc Quan, a lawyer who spent six months in the United States earlier this year on a fellowship from the National Endowment for Democracy, and was imprisoned for three months by the Vietnamese government on his return.

Quan said he had participated in the demonstrations in Hanoi on December 9, but that police prevented him from reaching this past Sunday’s protests. He said his brother, Le Quoc Quyet, was arrested at Sunday’s demonstrations in Ho Chi Minh City, and held for four hours before being released.

Quan said police at the demonstration had also arrested and released one of his uncles and his uncle’s friend.

Last Sunday’s demonstrations, in contrast to those on December 9, were met by dozens of riot police who had pre-emptively blocked off the street in front of the Chinese embassy and the adjacent park. Vietnamese blogs related the stories of three students who were arrested at the demonstrations in Hanoi, and released several hours later.

Vietnamese police sources refused to comment on the arrests, except to confirm that they had occurred.

But the harsher police response followed a Chinese statement condemning them last week. The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Wednesday that Chinese Foreign Ministry Qin Gang had urged Vietnam to prevent any future anti-Chinese demonstrations, which he said could harm bilateral ties.

Vietnam’s government-controlled press has printed numerous articles over the past two weeks laying out Vietnam’s claim to the islands. They rely on documents dating from medieval Vietnamese emperors and from 17th-century European explorers.

The arguments are widely taken for granted by Vietnamese, who view China’s claim to the islands as the latest in a long series of Chinese incursions on Vietnamese territory.

The dispute has intensified because the waters surrounding the Spratlys and Paracels are believed to contain substantial petroleum deposits. A Vietnamese agreement with British Petroleum to begin exploration in waters near southern Vietnam was scrapped earlier this year because of concerns over the sovereignty conflict.

The protestors say they will try to march again this weekend. That will present the government with a dilemma, as it tries to restrain protests involving independent democracy activists it opposes, but which also reflect widespread patriotic and anti-Chinese sentiment.

“When we were marching in Hanoi in the demonstration, passers-by were excited, and some of them joined us,” said university student Nhat. “There must be measures to stop China’s conspiracy to invade the islands.”

“I think the best solution is democracy,” said Quynh. “The issue must be discussed publicly so that all people will know about it, not just the Communist Party, so that we can unleash the nation’s power.”

Such unauthorized political activity, however, is precisely what Vietnam’s government would like to avoid.