Posts Tagged ‘Paracles’
Philippines: President Duterte Foes Amend Impeachment Complaint, Call Duterte Stance on China ‘Dereliction of Duty’March 20, 2017
MANILA, Philippines – In a bid to avoid tension in disputed areas in the South China Sea, President Duterte called for support for the approval of a Code of Conduct (COC) among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“It’s very important for China and the rest of the nations, especially the ASEAN, to come up with a Code of Conduct,” Duterte said in a press briefing in Myanmar on Sunday night.
The President also pitched for the COC while he was in Myanmar, which was part of the last leg of his introductory tour of Southeast Asia in the run-up to the ASEAN summit this November in Manila.
The Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) was signed by all members of ASEAN and China on Nov. 4, 2002. It lists the principles of self-restraint and non-militarization.
Duterte said he would invoke the arbitral ruling favoring Philippine claims if China starts gathering mineral resources from the disputed areas.
“Kung ang China kukuha na sila ng mga oil o uranium (If China starts getting oil or uranium) or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, kalabitin ko sila (I will do something). Ako man rin ang may-ari niyan (We own it). You claim it by historical right, but by judgment I won and it’s mine,” he said.
But Duterte again admitted that the Philippines cannot stop China from building a radar station at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal because the Philippine military is no match for Chinese armed forces. And he cannot allow Filipino soldiers to go to disputed areas to avoid casualties.
“First hour pa lang ubos na ‘yun (they are finished already). We are not in a position to declare war,” he said.
“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” he added.
Duterte also claimed that the United States is also “scared” of China.
“Hindi nga natin mapigilan kasi hindi natin kaya ang China. Hindi nga mapigilan ng Amerikano. In the first place, sa umpisa pa lang niyan, hindi na pumunta ang Amerikano, natakot na (We cannot stop China. Even the Americans cannot stop it. In the first place, from the start America did not respond, they got scared right away),” he said.
He noted that what the Philippines has right now are only entitlements.
“Just entitlement, not territory. I said repeatedly it is not within our territorial waters. But what we are trying to achieve is that we are also recognized to own the entitlements,” he said.
“The structures have nothing to do with the economic zone. It might impede but actually it’s a construction that would disturb the navigation of the sea,” he added.
Despite China’s excessive claims, Duterte said he is working to further bolster economic and trade ties between Manila and Beijing.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reminded Duterte that he has the constitutional duty to defend Panatag Shoal from Chinese incursion.
Carpio also formulated a five-point strategy on how the Duterte administration can respond to China’s reported plan to install a radar station in the disputed shoal.
The magistrate explained that Panatag is part of the national territory under Republic Act No. 9522 or Philippine Baselines Law and should be defended to “preserve for future generations of Filipinos their national patrimony in the West Philippine Sea.”
But he stressed that since the Philippines cannot match the military power of China, Duterte may opt for other actions to defend the country’s sovereignty over the shoal and fulfill his duty as president.
First, Carpio suggested that the government should file a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.
“This is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels,” he added.
The PCA ruled that Panatag Shoal is a “common fishing ground” of fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from China and other neighboring countries and nullified China’s nine-dash line claim over South China Sea. The justice said the government could also send the Philippine Navy to patrol the shoal.
“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” he suggested.
By Matthew Pennington
The Associated Press
President Barack Obama will be meeting with Asian leaders in Washington this week as fears grow that long-smoldering tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea risk flaring into conflict.
World leaders, including those from China, Japan and South Korea, will be in town for a summit hosted by Obama on nuclear security — the final round in the U.S. president’s drive for international action to stop materials that could be used for an atomic weapon or dirty bomb from getting into terrorist hands.
But other pressing security issues will be up for discussion on the sidelines of the two-day gathering that starts Thursday.
Obama will on Thursday meet separately with China’s President Xi Jinping at a time when frictions between the two world powers over China’s island-building in strategic waters are growing and look set to intensify with an upcoming ruling from an international tribunal on Beijing’s sweeping territorial claims.
The U.S. president is also meeting with the leaders of Japan and South Korea. Washington is looking for an elusive unity between its core allies in Asia as threats from North Korea reach fever-pitch after Pyongyang was stung with tough sanctions in response to its recent nuclear test and rocket launch.
Obama will be urging China to implement the U.N. sanctions it signed up to for use against North Korea, its traditional ally. For his part, Xi will want the U.S. to restart negotiations with the authoritarian government of Kim Jong Un, which has been touting progress in miniaturizing nuclear devices and missile technology that could directly threaten America.
With Obama’s presidency in its final year, there’s uncertainty among Asian nations on what the next administration will portend. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is calling for Japan and South Korea to pay more for U.S. military protection, and is advocating a tougher trade policy toward China.
During his seven years in office, Obama has deepened engagement with Asia, despite the huge distraction of chaos in the Middle East. The U.S. and China have cooperated on issues like climate change and nuclear security, even as their strategic rivalry has grown. The U.S. is a major player in China’s fast-growing nuclear industry, and this month, the U.S. and China opened a center in Beijing to train technicians and scientists from across the Asia-Pacific on nuclear security.
But when Obama and Xi meet, the hottest topic will be the most divisive one: China’s bold pursuit of its sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea.
China has reclaimed more than 3,000 acres of land in the past two years near sea lanes crucial for world trade. On these artificial islands, Beijing has installed airstrips and other military facilities that U.S. intelligence assesses will enable China to project offensive military power in the region by early next year.
Despite conflicting territorial claims from five other Asian governments, China contends it has a historic right to most of the South China Sea and maintains the U.S. has no business there. It accuses the U.S. of stoking tensions by sending military ships and planes through the area on freedom of navigation maneuvers.
“Washington should know that the more provocative moves it makes against China, the more counter-measures Beijing will take. Such an undesirable cycle may push both sides nearer confrontation and cause both to prepare for the worst-case scenario, potentially making it self-fulfilling,” the U.S. edition of the state-supported China Daily said in a recent editorial.
The stakes are set to rise by mid-year when an international arbitration body is set to rule on a case brought by the Philippines challenging the legal basis of the nine-dash line — Beijing’s rough demarcation of its claims.
If the Hague-based tribunal rules in the Philippines’ favor, as most experts anticipate, it could undermine China’s insistence that its stance is consistent with international law. China has refused to participate in the arbitration and says it will ignore the ruling, but a growing number of countries say both parties should be bound by it.
Jeffrey Bader, Obama’s former principal advisor on Asia, wrote in a commentary ahead of the summit that there’s concern in Washington and the region about how China might react to the ruling, and whether it will militarily challenge Filipino territorial claims. He said that as the Philippines is a U.S. ally, Obama “may warn Xi of the risks of escalation.”
The last time Xi visited Washington, in September, he publicly said that China did not intend to pursue militarization in the Spratly islands where most of land reclamation has happened — a statement that U.S. officials remind Beijing of at every opportunity. But in recent weeks, China has reportedly positioned more military equipment on disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The Backlash Against Xi Jinping (Contains links to many related articles)
China’s South China Sea Moves Provoke Tension, Reactions (Contains links to related articles)
South China Sea Island Disputes: Germany’s Angela Merkel gifts China’s leader Xi with map of ancient AsiaOctober 26, 2014
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. AP Photo
MANILA, Philippines—German Chancellor Angela Merkel had gifted Chinese President Xi Jinping with an old map of ancient Asia that did not carry China’s nine-dash line, foreign affairs officials said on Friday.
Xi, in one of his visits to Germany early this year or late last year, received a 17th century map of Asia as a present from Merkel, said Henry Bensurto Jr., consul general in San Francisco.
“What is very telling in that 17th century map is that there is no nine-dash line, and that Hainan does not belong also to China,” Bensurto, one of the leading experts on the West Philippine Sea, told the Senate finance subcommittee.
Under its nine-dash-line policy, China claims 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan claim parts of it.
China’s southernmost province, Hainan, passed in November 2013 a new fisheries law requiring foreign vessels to seek permission from regional authorities before conducting fishing or surveying activities in its waters.
The Philippines has filed a memorandum questioning China’s nine-dash-line policy with an arbitration tribunal in The Hague under the United Nations on Law of the Sea.
Bensurto also told the committee that the Chinese ambassador in London tried to set up a private dinner with the president of the five-member tribunal when it was constituted to look into the Philippine case in 2013.
The president later issued an open letter that the parties could not unilaterally approach the tribunal, and “everything will be treated aboveboard,” he said.
“This is a good indication of the level of high integrity of the judges, especially the president of the tribunal,” he said.
Bensurto volunteered the information when Sen. Loren Legarda asked about the implication of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s recent visit to Germany on the Philippine case. A tribunal member comes from Germany.
Legarda chaired the finance subcommittee that deliberated on the 2015 budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
After the hearing, Bensurto confirmed submitting voluminous documents, including several maps, to bolster the Philippine case.
“We have maps and everything. If you have one thousand maps, you only need what is sufficient to bring in your point,” he said when asked if the map given by Merkel to Xi was among the evidence. “One thing for sure, in our memorial, we said it (China’s claim) was not really historical.”
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the tribunal was expected to issue its resolution in early 2016 before President Aquino steps down.
Del Rosario said China has been given until Dec. 15 to respond to the Philippine submission. If it fails to respond to this, the tribunal would set oral questions for the Philippines in March 2015.
“By July, this would conclude. We hope to have an award by 2016,” he told the committee.
Merkel’s map gift to Mr. Xi was first reported on April 2, 2014:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel presents Xi Jinping with a map of China from the 18th century in Berlin, Germany.
Vietnamese Dig Through Maps of China From The Days of the Emperors — “South China Sea Not Owned By China”June 12, 2014
VietNamNet Bridge – Another ancient document showing that China’s southeastern frontier ends at the Hainan Island has been found: a map that was drawn at the order of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty in 1717.
China Map Hainan Island Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty in 1717. This image is an electronic version taken of the original map kept in the British Library. The photo is provided by the Library.
China’s territory included land and waters where Chinese emperors had sovereignty over and controlled. Therefore, the easiest way to see China’s official territory is to consider China’s historical documents or Chinese maps published by Chinese emperors.
The map that was drawn and published at the order of Emperor Kangxi in 1717 is such evidence. This is an official document of China, with international values that China can use to determine their sovereign lands.
Emperor Kangxi: Vietnam says he never claimed sovereignty or ownership of the South China Sea
This article aims to identify an event that Emperor Kangxi sent Western Jesuits everywhere for topographic surveying and mapping of the Qing Dynasty’s territory.
This work took almost 10 years and its result was the map of China entitled “Huangyu quan lan tu” in 1717.
According to this map, the southeastern border of China ends at the Hainan Island. This is a new contribution because the maps by the Qing Dynasty that have been used so far have unknown origin and are unofficial.
On March 28, 2014, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave the copy of the map drawn by Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville and printed in Germany in 1735 to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Huangyu quan lan tu map.
Before 1909, the Chinese government had not regarded the islands and the East Sea out of the southern island of Hainan as their waters and islands. At the same time, the Nguyen Lords and then Emperor Gia Long of Vietnam sent soldiers to the Paracel Islands.
This is recorded in the book “Phu Bien Tap Luc” by historian Le Quy Don (written from 1776-1784), in the official history in 1848, and foreigners also recorded the statement of sovereignty by Emperor Gia Long over the Paracel and Spratly Islands in an article published in 1837, and there were no objections from China.
Notably, many Chinese scholars have not used official historical documents or the official maps of the Chinese dynasties, especially the last Qing Dynasty to determine where the official border of China is. They have only used documents by travelers and explorers who only passed through and noted down what they heard. The maps they have used were all drawn by individuals, and not official maps.
To identify whether China previously considered Paracel and Spratly Islands as their territories, we should research the official historical documents of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) and the official maps of these two dynasties, because according to the International Court of Justice in 1933, the intention, will and effective implementation of the sovereignty must be at least identified in official historical documents and official documents.
The history of the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty showed that China’s border ends at the Hainan Island. They did not care about the Southeast Asia Sea beyond Hainan, so China cannot say that the East Sea is their long historical area.
The documents noted by individuals are not considered evidence for sovereignty of their country in the areas where they passed.
In the Qing Dynasty, the Hainan Island included Qiong Zhu and Zhu Ya, later merged into the Qiong province. Thus the Paracel and Spratly Islands are not located within China’s border.
At that time, Vietnam’s Nguyen Lords (1558 – 1777) and the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1862) exercised their continuous sovereignty over these islands without being opposed by China.
Under international law, a claimant for sovereignty based on the continuous exercise of sovereignty consists of two elements, and must prove that each element shows the intention and will to act as the owner, and some activities to prove that ownership.
In the case of Vietnam, the activities of Nguyen Lords in Paracel Islands were recorded by Vietnamese famous historian Le Quy Don in the official historical book entitled “Phu Bien Tap Luc”, and King Gia Long’s claims of sovereignty over the Paracels were recorded by Frenchman Taberd and published in 1837. The activities exercising Vietnam’s sovereignty over Paracel Islands conducted by the emperors after the death of Emperor Gia Long were also recorded in the official history.
Official map of Qing Dynasty
The Da qing yi tong quan tu map.
There are many ancient Chinese maps published in China until the end of the Qing Dynasty that did not consider Paracel and Spratly Islands as Chinese territory.
The map below is the official map of the Qing Dynasty that was drawn by Western priests at the order of Emperor Kangxi (1644-1912) over 10 years.
Therefore, the purpose of this article is to examine this map. We can say this is the first time this map is reviewed for the purpose of determining the border of China.
According to the article “Traditional Chinese Cartography and the Myth of Westernization” by Cordell DK Yee, before the Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and Michelle Ruggieri (1543-1607) went to Guangdong in 1583 for missionaries, the Chinese knew how to use squares to express the spacing on the map, but they did not know that the earth is not flat, but spherical, and they did not know how to use the Ptolemaic system for expression.
Priest Matteo Ricci introduced the precise technical drawing of the West into China and considered it as the way to carry missionary work. Ricci redrew the map of China based on Chinese information, using Western drawing principles.
These maps just copied the available information, not based on topographic surveying. Some Chinese were interested in these maps and reprinted them. However, they changed the maps by their artistic vision since, at that time, Chinese intellectuals considered maps as art objects like paintings and calligraphic works, not precise sciences.
Even Ricci put China in the middle of the world map, presumably to make the Chinese happy. Emperor Kangxi was very interested in Western science, like mathematics and astronomy. He built an observatory in 1644 and decided to use a western calendar from 19/10/1644 because it was more accurate.
In 1698 the Jesuits asked for Emperor Kangxi’s approval to measure topography of China to draw the Chinese map, saying that the old maps were inaccurate and even misleading.
According to Cordell D.K. Yee, in 1698, after hearing the proposal by Jesuit Dominique Parenin (1665-1759), Emperor Kangxi asked Joachim Bouvet (1656-1730) to return to France to recruit those who had good knowledge of astronomy, mathematics, geography and topography measurements and take them to China to help redraw China’s map.
He returned to China with 10 specialists. Emperor Kangxi asked these people to draw the map of Tianjin in 1705. The task was completed in 70 days. In 1707 the emperor told French specialists to draw the map of the area around Beijing, which was completed in six months. In 1708, they were instructed to draw the Great Wall and the task was completed in 1709.
After considering the above maps, Emperor Kangxi found that the Western techniques in mapping were much better than the traditional way of China so he assigned the Western Jesuits to draw the map of entire China. This map was completed in 1717, called the “Huangyu quan lan tu”.
This map is mentioned in the historical book of the Qing Dynasty – Qing shi gao – as follows: “In the Kangxi 58th year, the entire map is completed. This is a comprehensive map consisting of 32 sheets. There are separate maps of provinces, one sheet for one province.”
The “Qing shi gao” is though not entirely the official history because it was completed in 1927 after the Qing Dynasty had fallen, but it was compiled at the order by the Qing King so it can be considered official.
The woodblock print by proportion 1:1.200.000 in 1721 also has 32 sheets, one sheet for each province, just like the map in 1719. This woodblock was sent by the Western Jesuits to Europe and it was used as the basis for the book “Description, Geographique, Historique, Chronologique, Politique, et Physique de l’empire de la Chine” (1735) by Du Halde and the book “Nouvel atlas de la Chine” by JB Bourguignon.
In 1726, the Kang Hsi Imperial Encyclopedia was completed, consisting of 216 administrative area maps, without Mongolia and Tibetan. These maps were similar as the maps drawn by the Jesuits, but not having the longitude and latitude lines.
The Kang Hsi Imperial Encyclopedia was printed by the Qing Dynasty in 1728, with 5,020 episodes, including illustrations and writings from the earliest times to the modern period, written under the Kangxi and Yongzheng dynasties. This encyclopedia includes 800,000 pages and 100 million words and there are only 60 printed copies.
The Chinese map was reprinted in Traditional Chinese Cartography and the Myth of Westernization by Cordell DK Yee as mentioned above (see photo). The photo also shows that the Chinese territory to the southeast ends at the Hainan Island.
The “Huangyu quan lan tu” map is the foundation for other maps published later in China, which do not have clear origin.
Here are some maps that are kept in Western libraries, which can be referred to online. All show that China or Guangdong province does not have the Paracel or Spratly Islands:
1. Huang yu quan lan fen sheng tu map is archived in the US Library of Congress. This map can be found online. This map was donated to the US Library of Congress in 1884, and the year of publication is 1693. The map was drawn by Western principles so it could not be made before the Emperor Kangxi asked Western priests to draw the new China’s map in 1705. The year of publication 1693 should be a mistake. The map must be drawn after 1717, after the Huangyu quan lan tu map was printed and it seems to be a copy.
2. Da qing yi tong quan tu map is currently stored in the National Library of Australia. This map, based on analysis by Cordell DK Yee (mentioned above) as well as maps in the Kang Hsi Imperial Encyclopedia, are just the copies of the official map Huangyu quan lan tu, without the two provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet, but it was drawn in the combined style of Western and Chinese. This map consists of 12 individual parts; part 1 is the whole of China; part 12 is Guangdong, which ends at the Hainan Island.
3. Huangyu Quantu is the official map published in late Qing Dynasty. In 1890 the Qing government wanted to standardize the mapping of provinces and administrative regions so it set up “huidianquan” and told these huidianquan to draw local maps, using the Western method, but many localities redrew the maps based on the maps of the Jesuits because they did not understand the drawing principles.
As a result, the Huangyu Quantu, 1899, in Qinding Da Qing huidian, includes 24 sets (Beijing Huidianguan, 1899). It is the official map because it was printed by Huidianguan.
It can be concluded that there is a map that was drawn by Western Jesuits at the order of Emperor Kangxi, i.e., China used to have a formal map.
According to this map, China’s border ends at the island of Hainan and nothing has changed then. This is also consistent with the history of China during the Ming Dynasty (History of Ming) and the Qing Dynasty (Draft History of Qing).
Ho Bach Thao, a Vietnamese researcher, had researched the History of Ming and the Draft History of Qing and found that these books did not mention Paracel and Spratly Islands and also showed that China’s border ends at Hainan Island.
The China map with the nine-dash line was made in 1947 by Bai Meichu, an official of the Chinese People’s Republic (now Taiwan).
This homemade map that does not reflect the true history of China’s border, which has been used by the Chinese state, contrary to international law, to claim its sovereignty over the islands and sea areas within the U-shaped line, covering up to 85% of the East Sea.
They have used unorthodox and vague materials about the waters where Chinese people passed to prove that these waters belong to China from the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).
This claim is completely contrary to the history of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and the map drawn at the order of the Qing Emperor Kangxi, which was drawn over 10 years by Western priests.
Until 1909, China – and only the government of Guangdong province – sent people to learn about the Paracel and it was not until 1952 that Zhou Enlai raised claims over the Spratly Islands for the first time.
Given that, Paracel and Spratly belonging to China since ancient times is fabricated and untrue.
Vu Quang Viet
President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands before having dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Opening a four-country swing through the Asia-Pacific region, Obama is aiming to promote the U.S. as a committed economic, military and political partner. Obama said the United States would be obligated to defend China in the event of hostilities with China — even a fight over the East China Sea islands known as the Senkakus in Japan (Diaoyu in China). (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
U.S. President Barack Obama talks during a joint news conference with President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on April 28, 2014. On May 1, 2014, China planted its biggest and most complex oil rig near Vietnamese territory in the South China Sea. Photo by Reuters
On May 1, 2014, China moved its biggest China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) oil rig HD-981 into position in what Vietnam claims as its exclusive economic zone off the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands. China deployed some 80 ships to guard the rig, leading to several tense encounters between Chinese and Vietnamese ships. Several Vietnamese maritime law enforcement officers were injured when China used water cannons on the smaller Vietnamese ships to chase them away.
Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, the Philippines, to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea
The crews from the Vietnamese and Chinese coast guards shook hands and took photos as they met last month, sharing platters of fruit and raising their glasses for a toast. Now, they are in a tense standoff in the South China Sea.
“The two sides were very happy and united,” Lt. Colonel Phan Duy Cuong, the operations assistant of Vietnam’s Coast Guard Command, said of the April 15 ceremony. “We toasted each other with wine. They went on our boat and we went on theirs.”
Ships No. 8003 and 2007 sailed alongside two Chinese coast guard vessels for three days in the Gulf of Tonkin. A month later, at least one of those Chinese boats has been spotted helping guard an oil rig that Vietnam is demanding be removed from contested waters about 140 miles (225 kilometers) off its coast, according to Cuong.
The dispute over the rig near the Paracel Islands reflects a renewed chill between the two Communist nations after efforts to draw them closer together, including a flurry of official visits last year. Both China and the U.S. have targeted Vietnam as a potential partner to bolster their influence in the region.
“We were working together just days before, but now there is a line dividing us,” Cuong said on board boat 8003, which carried a crew of 50 plus 100 live chickens in a pen on the stern. “I’m very sad.” While on the joint patrol in April, the boats together inspected Chinese and Vietnamese fishing boats.
Cuong has been assigned to boat 8003 since it left Hai Phong port May 5 to patrol the waters west of the Paracel Islands. Over three days last week, the ship was chased by the Chinese coast guard five times as it attempted to break through a perimeter around the rig. The Chinese ships got as close as 400 meters to the Vietnamese craft, blasting their horns and ordering it to retreat. Other ships were rammed, Cuong said. Both sides have said they used water cannons.
The cooling in ties is less about China picking a fight with Vietnam and more about it warning off the U.S., according to Tan See Seng, an associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“The reason for the schizophrenic quality of Chinese behavior, I suspect, has to do with what China thinks U.S. intention and strategy toward it might be,” Tan said by e-mail. “China’s big worry is the U.S. and its partners will block China’s access to strategic trade routes through the South China Sea.”.
China and Vietnam fought a border war in 1979, with China having forcibly taken the Paracel Islands from Vietnam five years earlier. In 1988, a Chinese naval attack in the Spratly Islands, which Vietnam also lays claims to, killed 64 Vietnamese border guards as China seized seven atolls. In 2007, Chinese naval patrol vessels fired on a Vietnamese fishing boat, killing one sailor.
Out on the South China Sea last week, boat 8003’s radar screen showed about 60 Chinese ships facing off against half a dozen Vietnamese boats. Cuong’s ship got within three nautical miles of the oil rig on May 6 before being turned away and hasn’t been that close since.
“The first day we got there we saw all these ships turn on their lights,” said Bui Son, a crew member in charge of artillery. “It looked like a city. We were so surprised to see such a heavy presence of Chinese ships in Vietnam’s territorial waters. We were shocked.”
As he spoke, in the distance the rig rose from the sea like a giant tower, with a platform on a red base holding several cranes. At night it glows and can be seen as far away as 12 nautical miles.
The crew of boat 8003 has seen two Chinese missile-launching ships in the area, while Chinese aircraft have flown over at low altitude. Vietnam state media reported a Chinese submarine in the area.
Colonel Luu Tien Thang, deputy director of the political division of the Coast Guard Command, said Vietnam has coast guard and fishing surveillance craft in the vicinity of the rig.
“We do not use the navy to show our willingness to resolve this peacefully,” he said on May 15 on boat 8003. “If we deployed the navy, it would escalate the situation.”
Anti-China protests in Vietnam last week morphed into attacks on factories operated by companies from Taiwan and Singapore, leaving two Chinese dead and scores of businesses damaged. That prompted Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to instruct provincial governments and security forces to take “quick actions” to stop the violence and prevent protests.
Things had appeared on a more positive footing last year, as China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang made a series of visits to Southeast Asian nations, pledging investment and bolstering trade ties. Xi said in October “the Asia-Pacific is a big family and China is a member of this family.”
Vietnam and China last June set up a hot-line between their leaders, and expanded a 2006 agreement to jointly explore for oil in the Gulf of Tonkin. Li visited Vietnam in October, where he and Dung pledged to boost “political trust,” signing a memorandum of understanding for a cross-border economic cooperation zone and agreeing to open trade promotion offices.
Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang visited Beijing last June, where he had a three-hour meeting with Xi and they agreed to push “pragmatic cooperation” on areas such as defense, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
China says the rig is in its territorial waters, and has accused Vietnam of ramming its ships. The attacks on workers in Vietnam prompted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on May 15 to criticize the Vietnamese government for “indulgence and connivance toward domestic anti-China forces and criminals.”
The rig’s presence off Vietnam’s coast is “very normal behavior,” General Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff, said in the U.S. on May 15. Vietnam dispatched ships to disrupt the drilling operations, “and that’s something we aren’t able to accept,” he said.
China’s growing self-confidence on the international stage, coupled with Xi’s “tough” style, means the relationship with Vietnam could stay tense, according to Arthur Ding, a research fellow at the China politics division of the Institute of International Relations in Taipei.
“I don’t think you’re going to see it escalate into a war,” Ding said by phone. “China and Vietnam are still self-restrained.”
While Vietnam has confronted China in the waters it “also realizes that it’s quite impossible to confront China in a very sustainable way,” he said. “China has become the No. 2 power.”
Out on boat 8003, Son said he’s not afraid of the larger Chinese ships.
“What I do worry about is that our friendship is fading and we are losing trust in each other,” he said. “That’s the bigger loss for the two countries.”
“When we said goodbye, we promised we’d see each other again. Now we see each other in this very difficult situation.”
To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: K. Oanh Ha in Hanoi at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at email@example.com Neil Western