Tensions Brew in Southeast Asia
Part of an escalating trend of tension and mistrust between the Asian nations of China and Vietnam, on Thursday China is reported to have sent its largest patrol ship, the Haixun-31, into waters currently disputed by Vietnamese sovereignty. This Chinese military action, which could be seen as a move meant to intimidate and "bully" the Vietnamese government, was greeted with increased military drills in the area as well as a declaration that military conscription will commence in response to the current threat. Tensions between the two nations are at an all time high; for some the threat of war is extremely real. A storm is brewing in the South China Sea, and should it not be controlled, the entire region may be engulfed.
The main dispute between the two nations focuses on the subject of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea; this resource-rich archipelago has been a subject of tension and controversy for many years. Actual conflict occurred in 1988 when China sunk three Vietnamese vessels around the Spratly region. In 1991, China laid out an official claim to the chain of islands; however, that claim has been disputed by Vietnam and has never been accepted by the UN and the greater international community. As of now, China has no more right to the islands as anybody else. Rather, China is deciding to flex its military muscles with increased military activity in this disputed and tense area.
Thursday's events, including the sighting of the Chinese vessel in the disputed waters and the swift denouncement from the Vietnamese government, illustrate how tensions between the two nations are a high point for the last twenty years, possibly for all time. However, considering China to be the only aggressor does not address the root of the problem. Contributing to the tensions of the region is "...Vietnam’s staging of a live-fire exercise in the area and China’s denouncement of it." Therefore, through Vietnam's military exercises, as well as the announcement of a new military draft, it is apparent that Vietnam is not apathetically standing back while China claims disputed territory; Vietnam is actively opposing the Chinese and appears to be readying itself for a potential military conflict.Continued on the next page