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Vietnam protests militarization in East Sea

Released at: 11:05, 17/12/2016

Vietnam protests militarization in East Sea


New satellite imagery shows Chinese build-up of weaponry in disputed waters.

by Ha Nguyen

Vietnam opposes all activities that violate its sovereignty as well as militarizes and threatens peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea.

Mr. Le Hai Binh, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made the comments in reply to media questions on December 16 about Vietnam’s response to new satellite images from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) that show that China appears to have installed weapons on seven geographic features in the East Sea, using the Vietnamese name for the troubled waters.

Vietnam’s latest response follows media reports earlier this week that China has deployed weapons on the artificial islands it has built in the sea, a move that has the former bristling.

China appears to have installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the East Sea, according to the AMTI at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), citing new satellite imagery.

CSIS’s AMTI said that its findings, made available first to Reuters on December 14, come despite statements from the Chinese leadership that Beijing has no intention of militarizing the islands along the strategic trade route, where territory is claimed by several countries.

“This is further evidence that the commitment that Chinese leaders made to US leaders last year not to militarize these islands was, at best, premature,” Mr. Gregory Poling, AMTI’s Director, was quoted as saying by foreign media on December 14. “This is clearly advanced preparations to arm these islands in case of an armed conflict.”

“Vietnam is extremely worried about this imagery,” Mr. Binh said, saying the country has sufficient legal foundation and historical evidence proving its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes.

On December 13 Vietnam also denounced China for holding the so-called “70th Anniversary of the Recovery” of the two archipelagoes.

International analysts seem unsurprised by China’s recent and also future moves in the East Sea. “I expect China will sooner or later resume its plan to increase control over the air and sea space in the East Sea,” Ms. Bonnie Glaser, Senior Adviser for Asia and Director, China Power Project, at CSIS told VET.

She added that China may intensify its plans and actions in 2017. “China might declare baselines in the Spratlys,” she said. “It will likely feel under pressure to signal to other claimants that it is not complying with the recent Hague ruling and is not backing away from its claims, including a possible historic rights claim and jurisdiction over resources.”

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