Beijing and Hanoi in Conflict Over Spratly and Paracel Archipelagos

On Monday, Vietnam began a series of live-fire military exercises in South China Sea. The Vietnamese Foreign spokesman Nguyen Phuong Nga referred as an “annual routine training”. Last month, Hanoi has accused Beijing of having “violated” its sovereignty in an area that covers 200 miles from the Vietnamese coast, where exploration vessel of oil PetroVietnam has been damaged by Chinese ships. A similar incident occurred last Thursday.

The two archipelagos are important to both countries because of the economic and geostrategic interests. They are on routes between East Asia to the Indian Ocean. In addition to China and Vietnam, the Spratly Islands are claimed by several countries in the region such as Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. Yesterday, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has assured that China “will not use force” to resolve this conflict. “We will not use force or threaten to use it,” said the spokesman, Hong Lei. “We hope that countries concerned will do more for peace and stability in the region,” without mentioning any countries in the region.

In 1988, China and Vietnam went to war to capture reef Johson (赤瓜礁海战). In 1984, Brunei established an exclusive fishing zone without the claim. In 1977, the Philippines trying to occupy the island of Utu Aba. Last Monday, Manila said it was adopting a new name for the disputed area. “All other nations refer to the South China Sea based on their own perception. Vietnam calls the East Sea, it is natural for us to call the western Philippine Sea, “said Edwin Lacierda, spokesman for the Philippine presidency. Yesterday, Manila has emphasized the role of the United States on this issue. The Chinese “are a superpower, with more than ten times our population. We do not want the hostilities”, said President Benigno Aquino. “Perhaps the presence of our ally, the United States, will ensure that we all have the freedom to navigate and that “all will respect international law”.

The Paracel Islands are the focus of disputes between China and Vietnam. In 1974, both countries have engaged in armed conflict. Hanoi loses control of the archipelago. The economic and strategic stakes are enormous in this region. In the fall of 2010, a diplomatic crisis erupted between Japan and China over Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands, which were controlled by Tokyo.