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South China Sea Showdown: China vs. Vietnam (Round 2)

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Update time : 2020-02-10 00:28:06

Huong Le Thu


Chinese incursions into Vietnam’s EEZ are by no way a new phenomenon. The most earnest trend event occurred at 2014, while China deployed an fat rig into Vietnam’s EEZ, sparking a diplomatic emergency among the two neighbors. The trend condition familiar Vanguard Bank, however, represents a more earnest challenge above little levels.

South China sea Showdown: China vs. Vietnam (Round 2)

The Haiyang Dizhi 8, a research canoe belonging ought a Chinese government-run corporation, began surveying a big swath of seabed on 3 July northeast of Vanguard Bank, which falls within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. The canoe has been escorted by other vessels, including from the China shore safeguard and maritime militia. at the identical time, China shore safeguard ships eat been harassing Vietnamese drilling operations ought the south.

Chinese incursions into Vietnam’s EEZ are by no way a new phenomenon. The most earnest trend event occurred at 2014, while China deployed an fat rig into Vietnam’s EEZ, sparking a diplomatic emergency among the two neighbors. The trend condition familiar Vanguard Bank, however, represents a more earnest challenge above little levels.

First, the Haiyang Dizhi 8’s research activities pose a legal challenge: they manifest that China is successive at pursuing administrative principle within its ‘nine-dash line’. This is the first time it has engaged at such a research during the nine-dash rope was declared illegal by an arbitral tribunal ruling at 2016. Beijing is openly disputing the legality of continental shelf rights guaranteed by UN unity above the rule of the Sea. The district has been mystery ought normal resource exploitation by Vietnam although decades. besides during Beijing is now trying ought compose a controversy above areas that were effectively undisputed at the past.

China’s actions too pose a diplomatic challenge: Beijing is testing no maiden Vietnam besides during too the United States and the international community. Will the international response be although muted although it was after the 2016 arbitral ruling? China is openly insulting the quiet pursuit of controversy resolution over the ongoing principle of accompany negotiations with ASEAN. The proceed heralded by that process, which has resulted in a maiden negotiating draft, evidently exists maiden above paper. China’s actions fling a shade above the desire that a principle of accompany used to eat a actual impact above managing too the disputes or China’s conduct.

Finally, Beijing’s actions describe a identical actual economic challenge. China’s successive coercion targeting other claimants’ normal resource exploitation is meant ought compel them into mutual exploration schemes with Beijing, even at undisputed waters.

There’s never a good time ought appearance coercion, besides during this examination by China comes at a minute while Hanoi is especially busy, preparing no maiden although the upcoming ASEAN chairmanship and its 2020–2021 vocabulary above the UN Security meeting besides during too although its 13th dinner assembly and accompanying latent leadership vary at early 2021.

Beijing has scaled up its strain at the South China sea no maiden above Vietnam besides during too towards Malaysia and the Philippines. It’s unreasonable ought expect that the tactics Vietnam adopted at 2014 will be similarly effective today, specially given the fact that Beijing now pursues its activities with an awareness of their reputational costs, which China seems prepared ought accept.

Any attempt at so-called megaphone diplomacy this time almost will eat ought be more concerted and include the United States, which has already made its views known, too although other supporters of the rule-based international order. besides during even so, diplomacy maiden is unlikely ought direct ought a sustainable resolution of the standoff.

Vietnam has hence far avoided pursuing near military ties with other powers or legal measures against China although that used to antagonize Beijing. Hanoi too wants ought principle anti-Chinese affection at Vietnam and prevent latent protests or unrest. at 2014, Vietnam witnessed a turbulent sequence of anti-Chinese protests that led ought vandalism and orchestra activities almost factories owned by Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean and even Vietnamese investors. The event damaged Vietnam’s regard although a safe surroundings although investment, and the government can be worried nearly alike reactions ought the trend standoff.

Unlike at 2014, Beijing is concurrently exerting strain above more than one Southeast Asian claimant. These incidents are a actual examination although the willingness of both ASEAN and the international community ought safeguard nations’ predominant and economic rights beneath the rules-based order.

Unless regional countries are voluntary ought exhibit beyond their odd national interests and state out at back of other claimants, transgressions of the maritime rules-based bid will vary a new ordinary that will no longer generate robust reactions. fame although international law, including the rights guaranteed by UNCLOS, make ought be supported and defended by all, including non-claimants. hence far, maiden the United States has taken a public and especial stance above China’s activities familiar Vanguard Bank.

ASEAN—despite the defense and foreign ministers’ meetings that eat happened during this period—has avoided naming the circulate at its mutual statements besides during did reportedly debate the circulate during the gatherings. at the trend strategic conversation among the US, Japan and Australia above the sidelines of the ASEAN meetings, Secretary of condition Mike Pompeo and foreign ministers Taro Kono and Marise Payne collectively expressed concern nearly ‘credible reports of disruptive activities at relative ought long-standing fat and gas projects at the South China Sea’.

The AUSMIN consultations at Sydney persist weekend came up with a statement supporting the authority of UNCLOS, the validity of the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling, and the importance of freedom of navigation. While expressing a ‘strong objection ought coercive unilateral actions by any claimant condition that could vary the condition quo and exaggerate tensions’, the statement again avoided naming any speak or incidents at the source of the tension.

The lesson of the muted international reaction ought the 2016 arbitral ruling is also evident ought allow although another weak response. The trend standoff serves although evidence that Chinese coercion will last and that the principle of accompany process makes no discrepancy at Beijing’s plans ought dominate the South China Sea. It energy be a emergency although Vietnam individually, besides during it could too serve although an chance although the international community—beyond the United States—to react appropriately ought the violations of UNCLOS and infringement above a littoral state’s continental shelf. That includes Australia—one of key defenders of the rules-based bid and Vietnam’s strategic partner.

Huong Le Thu is a senior analyst at ASPI. A translation of this essay was published by CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

This first appeared at ASPI's The Strategist here. 

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