. Energy News .

China tensions stoke Vietnam naval ambitions
by Staff Writers
Haiphong, Vietnam (AFP) Nov 13, 2011

Facing an emboldened and heavily armed China in a territorial stand-off, Vietnam is looking to swell its naval reputation with enhanced firepower and renewed pride in its maritime past.

Vietnam, hardly known for its naval prowess despite 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) of coastline, is keen to show its commitment to two strategically important and reputedly resource-rich island chains in the South China Sea also claimed by Beijing.

Hanoi has accelerated spending on sea power in recent years to counter the increasing dominance of the Chinese navy, experts say, and reassure a Vietnamese population wary of its larger neighbour and former coloniser.

A hitherto little-known sea route used by the Communist north in the war against US-backed South Vietnam has provided just the right propaganda to show that when it comes to fighting Hanoi, bigger does not necessarily mean better.

At a recent event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail -- a supply route that delivered soldiers, medicines and arms to the Viet Cong -- much was made of the tales of out-gunned sailors outwitting a mighty enemy.

"History is being used for current disputes. It is a demonstration that Vietnam has a maritime tradition," said Vietnam expert Professor Carl Thayer of the University of New South Wales in Australia.

He said the focus on the anniversary "plays into nationalism and it makes the government more legitimate because its the modern-day inheritor of that legacy."

A ceremony in the coastal city of Haiphong, around two hours' drive north of Hanoi, was attended by Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, broadcast live on television and given prominent coverage in state-run newspapers.

"Between 1961 and 1975, these small ships won over America's modern weapons," said Sang, adding that "thousands of weapons and tens of thousands of soldiers" were transported by the sea route.

Veteran Nguyen Quang Mui, looking like he still spends much of his time in his naval uniform, proudly told reporters about his time on the "no-number fleet", so-called because their boats were stripped of identifying markers.

"We were ordered to protect our force and secretly bring our goods onshore at any price... We did not think of death," the 70-year-old told AFP at the anniversary event last month.

Mui described his "most dangerous" trip when, tasked with delivering weapons to Vietnam's southern coast under the cover of darkness, the ship found itself surrounded by three US vessels.

Despite an enemy "one hundred times more modern", the mission was a success.

That former foe has become an ally in the context of the present-day spat as China's claim to essentially all of the South China Sea, a key global trading route, has prompted the US to pledge a continued presence in the region.

Vietnam's annual naval procurement budget has jumped by 150 percent since 2008 to $276 million this year and is expected to hit almost $400 million by 2015, according to defence and security intelligence group IHS Jane's.

But in August, the Pentagon estimated China's overall military-related spending was more than $160 billion in 2010 and said Beijing was increasingly focused on naval power, with investment in new hi-tech weaponry.

That same month Vietnam received the second of two Russian-made frigates ordered several years ago as part of a naval upgrade that also includes maritime patrol aircraft and six submarines.

"Until the recent procurement drive from Russia, the navy was in a poor state, with largely obsolete equipment," IHS analyst Alex Pape said.

Most of Vietnam's recent purchases are smaller missile-armed warships that would be a deterrent against the better-equipped Chinese navy but "would not be survivable in a direct, sustained war-fighting scenario," he added.

While conflict is still just a threat, an editorial in China's Global Times newspaper, closely linked to the ruling Communist Party, last month warned countries with rival territorial claims to "prepare for the sounds of cannons".

The neighbours are at loggerheads over the Spratly archipelago -- also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia -- as well as the Paracel islands, annexed by China in 1974 and believed to be used for intelligence gathering.

In May, Vietnam accused Chinese marine surveillance vessels of cutting exploration cables of an oil survey ship inside its exclusive economic zone.

Footage on YouTube apparently showing an unidentified Vietnamese ship ramming a Chinese surveillance boat has also emerged recently, although it has not been verified by either side.

Last month China and Vietnam pledged to settle their disputes through "friendly consultations".

But the maritime issue has sparked an unprecedented string of small-scale nationalist protests in major Vietnamese cities in recent months, at first tolerated by the authorities, but later broken up with demonstrators arrested.

At the anniversary event, models of vessels recently purchased from Russia were prominently displayed, along with romanticised posters depicting a steely-eyed sailor with a bayonet poised to defend the Spratlys.

A local official, pointing at a poster, told AFP that China wanted to take Vietnam's islands -- "It is not fair!" he exclaimed.

Related Links
Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Exxon oil deal with Kurds shakes Iraq
Baghdad (UPI) Nov 11, 2011
Exxon Mobil's oil and gas exploration agreement with Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurds, who're at odds with Baghdad over the country's energy wealth, marks a significant, and tantalizing, departure by U.S. oilmen amid the current military withdrawal. The breakaway move into Kurdistan, the first by any of the oil majors operating in Iraq under 20-year production contract signed in 2009, could ... read more

US Congress to look into 'green' aid to China

NOAA greenhouse gas index continues climbing

IEA: Warming may be irreversible by 2017

US cyclist, energy firm guilty in French hacking scandal

Chevron says suspending drilling after oil spill off Brazil

US Government Confirms Link Between Earthquakes and Hydraulic Fracturing

China faults ConocoPhillips for Bohai

Manila seeks ASEAN front against China on sea row

Macho Springs Wind Project Completes Construction

Ascent Solar Selects Teams for Innovative Design Competition

Scotland gets $160M for renewable energy

Mortenson Construction Builds Its Fifth Wind Facility In Illinois

Brewery now able to ship more product year-round thanks to innovative solar setup

Award-winning treatment facility uses SPP E-tubes in drying process

Delivering Clean Energy to Eastern Europe

The Clean Energy Collective Selected to Build and Administer Community-Owned Solar Garden

IEA Report Advises Governments to Embrace Renewables and Nuclear

EON to sue Germany over nuclear exit

Swiss energy group shuns Russian nuclear fuel

EnBW reports profits down in third quarter

Generating Ethanol from Lignocellulose Possible, But Large Cost Reductions Still Needed

Solazyme Announces First US Commercial Passenger Flight on Advanced Biofuel

A Stable Renewable Fuel Standard Is Needed to Meet Biofuel Production Goals

Mission Increases Jatropha Oil Supply Completing the 2011 Planting Season

Second Tiangong-1 And Shenzhou-8 docking to face light interference

Made-in-Chengdu to help Shenzhou spacecraft return

What does the Tiangong 1 space station mean for China

China masters space command, control

Regions must brace for weather extremes: UN climate panel

US climate study group gets big oil funds

Nepal defends China snub for climate summit

Precipitation variability in Northeast, Southwest linked in 1,000-year analysis


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement