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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        10   June 2011

Vietnam-China sea tensions rise

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Vietnam protested to China Thursday after what it claimed was a "premeditated" attack on an exploration ship in its waters, but Beijing hit back, warning its neighbour against violating its sovereignty.

The latest incident comes against a backdrop of increased anti-Chinese sentiment in Vietnam, where hundreds of people staged a rare protest Sunday over the activities of Chinese ships in disputed waters.

With ties between Beijing and Hanoi at their lowest ebb in years owing to territorial spats over potentially oil-rich waters, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung vowed to protect Vietnam's "incontestable" sovereignty.

Hanoi said a Chinese fishing boat "intentionally rammed" the exploration cables of a vessel, chartered by state energy giant PetroVietnam, conducting a seismic survey inside its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone Thursday.

The incident was "premeditated and carefully calculated" as China aims to bring an undisputed area into the territorial row, foreign ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga told reporters.

"This is unacceptable to Vietnam," she said, adding the foreign ministry had met Chinese embassy officials Thursday afternoon "to express our opposition to such acts".

Two Chinese fishing enforcement vessels and other fishing boats arrived to assist the Chinese boat, Nga said, adding that the collision had damaged the Vietnamese ship.

She said the area in question falls completely under Vietnamese sovereignty according to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

But, in apparent reference to the same incident, China gave a different version of events in a report carried by official news agency Xinhua early Friday.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Chinese fishing boats were chased away by armed Vietnamese ships on Thursday morning.

According to Beijing's account, during the incident the fishing net of one of the Chinese boats became tangled with the cables of a Vietnamese oil exploring vessel, which was operating illegally in the area.

The oil exploration boat continued dragging the Chinese vessel for more than an hour with Chinese fishermen forced to cut off the fishing net, the report said.

Hong said Vietnam's oil exploration in the area and the actions of the Vietnamese vessels had grossly infringed Chinese sovereignty.

The incident comes just two weeks after three Chinese marine surveillance vessels severed the exploration cables of the Binh Minh 2, another Vietnamese oil survey ship inside the 200 nautical mile zone, according to Hanoi.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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