Vietnam set for live-fire naval drill

13:18, June 13, 2011      

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Vietnam was set to conduct a live-fire naval drill today, a move seen as a military show of force to defy Beijing. This comes after warnings for Hanoi to stop violating China's sovereignty over the South China Sea.

The drill comes a week after Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie met his Vietnamese counterpart at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, where the two sides stressed the importance of developing the bilateral relationship in a spirit of cooperation.

Calling the drill "a routine annual training activity," the Vietnamese government said the war game would last for nine hours around the Hon Ong Island, about 40 kilometers off its central coast.

The island is about 250 kilometers away from the Xisha Islands and 1,000 kilometers away from the Nansha Islands. China declares indisputable sovereignty over these two archipelagos and their adjacent waters, which belong to the South China Sea. Vietnam contests this authority.

On Thursday morning, Chinese fishing boats were chased away by armed Vietnamese ships while near the Nansha Islands, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Amid the turmoil, the fishing net of one of the Chinese boats got tangled with the cables of an Vietnamese oil exploring vessel, which was operating illegally in the area.

"The drill is undoubtedly intended as a military show of force toward China," Zhuang Guotu, director of Research School of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, told the Global Times. "Through the flexing of its muscle, Vietnam wants to demonstrate its resolution to maintain its claims on the Nansha Islands."

Ji Qiufeng, a professor at the School of Foreign Relations at Nanjing University, told the Global Times that Vietnam is testing China's bottom line.

"In response, Beijing needs to make it clear to Vietnam that any challenge to China's sovereignty over the South China Sea cannot succeed," Ji said, noting however that both sides should avoid further escalating tensions.

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Source: Global Times
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