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Vietnamese hold anti-China rally amid sea spat
by Staff Writers
Hanoi (AFP) June 19, 2011

Up to 100 Vietnamese rallied outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi for the third weekend in a row on Sunday over an escalating maritime row with Beijing.

The group sang patriotic songs, chanted and carried signs such as "China stop violating the territorial waters of Vietnam," referring to a dispute over the sovereignty of two archipelagos in the South China Sea.

"The East Sea is not the village pond of China. I come here to show my patriotism," said one protester, who asked not to be named, using the Vietnamese name for the sea.

Demonstrations are not common in authoritarian Vietnam, where small land rights rallies are tolerated but advocates of other political causes risk arrest, yet anti-China sentiment has recently brought people to the streets.

Police at Sunday's rally, who outnumbered the crowd, noted their patriotism but told them through loudhailers: "Your gathering here may complicate the situation, influencing diplomatic relations between the two countries."

The communist neighbours are at odds over the potentially oil-rich Paracel and Spratly archipelagos and surrounding waters.

Tensions have heightened in recent weeks in the South China Sea, with Vietnam holding live-fire military exercises after accusing Chinese ships of ramming one oil survey ship and cutting the exploration cables of another.

China staged its own three days of military exercises in the area, which state media said were aimed at boosting the country's offshore maritime patrol force.

The United States and Vietnam on Friday jointly called for freedom of navigation and rejected the use of force in the sea.

After talks in Washington, the former war foes said that "the maintenance of peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is in the common interests of the international community".

China has myriad disputes in the sea with countries including Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines -- which said Friday that it was sending its ageing naval flagship into the disputed waters.

earlier related report
Philippines says naval ship to enforce maritime law
Manila (AFP) June 19, 2011 - The Philippines' military chief said Sunday the country's naval flagship would not go beyond the country's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone as it prepares to deploy near disputed South China Sea waters.

General Eduardo Oban said however he remained optimistic that the territorial dispute would be solved peacefully and avoid a potential armed confrontation.

"We hope it will not reach that point," Oban told reporters when asked if sending the flagship Rajah Humabon to the area could stoke clashes.

He said the ship would be confined to its maritime boundaries and would not stray into international waters.

"I am optimistic that whatever conflicts may arise there will be settled peacefully and diplomatically, although what I am saying is that we will have to (also) enforce maritime laws within our 200 nautical mile zone," he said.

Manila said Friday it would deploy the Rajah Humabon to the South China Sea, a day after China announced that one of its maritime patrol vessels was also scheduled to pass through the area.

Both countries, as well Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims over potentially resource-rich areas in the South China Sea, particularly the Spratlys islands.

China claims the entire South China Sea as its historical fishing grounds, but the Philippines argues that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states that a country has exclusive economic rights over waters that fall within 200 nautical miles of its continental shelf.

The Philippines' zone overlaps in some places with those of claims by the other claimants to the Spratlys.

The Rajah Humabon, a former US Navy frigate that served during World War II, is one of the world's oldest warships. It was commissioned in the Philippine Navy in 1980.

Tensions in the long-running dispute over the area have flared in recent months on allegations by the Philippines and Vietnam that China has become increasingly aggressive in staking its territorial claims.

The Philippines accused China this month of sending naval vessels to intimidate rival claimants around the Spratly Islands, as well as of installing buoys and posts in nearby areas.

Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario met with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Friday and called on them to have a common stand against China over the overlapping claims.

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China stages military drills in South China Sea
Beijing (AFP) June 17, 2011 - China staged three days of military exercises in the South China Sea and plans to boost its offshore maritime patrol force, state media said Friday, as tensions with its neighbours simmer.

China has competing claims with Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei over potentially resource-rich areas in the South China Sea which have flared in recent weeks.

Beijing has pledged it will not resort to force to resolve the lingering maritime territorial disputes, after the Philippines this week sought help from the United States and Vietnam staged live-fire military exercises.

According to the Global Times, 14 Chinese navy vessels recently staged drills in waters near China's southern tropical island of Hainan, including anti-submarine manoeuvres and the beach landing of troops.

The exercises in the South China Sea were aimed at "defending atolls and protecting sea lanes," reports said.

The China Maritime Surveillance force meanwhile will be bolstered from the current staff of 9,000 to 15,000 personnel by 2020, the China Daily reported.

The force falls under the State Oceanic Administration, an agency that supervises China's coastline and territorial waters.

The patrol fleet will have 350 vessels by 2015 and 520 by 2020, the report said, citing an unnamed senior China Maritime Surveillance official. It will also have 16 planes by 2015.

Disputes at sea between China and other countries have been on the rise, a State Oceanic Administration report said last month.

China said Thursday it had dispatched a maritime patrol vessel to disputed South China Sea waters but insisted it was committed to peace in the region.

Taiwan's navy said this week it would proceed with scheduled patrol missions in the disputed waters, sending a naval fleet to Taiwan-controlled Taiping, the biggest island in the Spratlys, one of the disputed island chains.

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US, Vietnam in joint call amid China tension
Washington (AFP) June 17, 2011
The United States and Vietnam on Friday jointly called for freedom of navigation and rejected the use of force in the South China Sea, amid simmering tensions between Beijing and its neighbors. After talks in Washington, the former war foes said that "the maintenance of peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is in the common interests of the international c ... read more

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