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Anti-China Protests in Vietnam and Philippines, Following Disputes Over Sea Oil-Gas Deposits

May 14, 2014  

Anti-China protests in Vietnam, following disputes over oil-gas deposits in South China Sea

China denies U.S. accusation over South China Sea

BEIJING, May 13, 2014 (Xinhua) --

China on Tuesday denied that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had accused it of making "provocative" moves in the South China Sea during a phone conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Foreign media, including Reuters, quoted U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki as saying Kerry told Wang over the phone that China's introduction of an oil rig and numerous government vessels in waters disputed with Vietnam was "provocative."

"In fact, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry made no such comments during the phone conversation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told Xinhua.

According to Hua, Kerry's message during the phone talks was that the U.S. takes neither positions nor sides, and has no intention to make any judgment on the issue of territorial sovereignty.

The United States hopes all parties will properly handle the issue to maintain peace and stability in the region, Hua quoted Kerry as saying.

Wang briefed Kerry on the historical context, facts and China's stance on issues regarding situations in the South China Sea and East China Sea, according to the spokeswoman.

Wang urged the U.S. side to hold an objective, just and fair view, honor its commitments, and speak and act cautiously, so as to avoid encouraging concerned parties to take provocative actions.

"There is indeed a country taking provocative actions in the South China Sea, but this country is not China," Hua said at a regular briefing earlier on Tuesday.

Recently the United States has made mistaken comments regarding sea disputes, which have encouraged dangerous and provocative actions, she said.

"We expect the United States to reflect on its acts. If it indeed expects the Pacific Ocean to be pacific, it should think what role it can play in maintaining regional peace and stability," Hua said.

Manila to bear consequences for deliberate provocation   2014-05-14 15:24:54

by Xinhua Writer Zhu Dongyang

BEIJING, May 14, 2014 (Xinhua) --

In a reckless move that further undermined the peace of South China Sea, Manila went ahead with a premeditated plot to provoke Beijing in a vain wish to infringe upon China's sovereignty.

Last week, Philippine police detained 11 Chinese fishermen and their boat near China's Half Moon Shoal in the South China Sea on the grounds that they poached sea turtles.

But no matter the allegation was true or not, Manila was wrong in the first place because China has indisputable sovereign rights over the Nansha Islands and the adjacent waters, including the Half Moon Shoal, where the incident occurred.

Thus any actions taken by the Philippines against the Chinese fishermen are illegal and invalid and would be regarded as direct infringements of China's sovereignty.

The timing of the incident is tricky, as it happened not long after U.S. President Barack Obama's recent visit to Manila, during which the two sides reasserted their military alliance.

The provocation also came days before the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), during which the emboldened Philippines, together with Vietnam, launched a failed bid to pit the regional bloc against Beijing over territory claims.

The Manila-Hanoi cohort evokes reminiscence of a Philippine naval delegation's beer drinking and volleyball playing with Vietnamese sailors in the South China Sea in April, widely read by the media as the two countries' budding nascent partnership amid their growing row with Beijing over contested waters.

But that kind of ill-disposed joint venture is built on shaky grounds and is doomed to fail.

While reiterating calls for peaceful settlement of the dispute and joint development of resources, China has also made it clear that it is confident and capable of countering challenges to its territorial and sovereign integrity.

All parties should also be reminded that ignorance of China's resolve to defend its sovereign land will induce consequences too severe for certain countries to bear.

Meanwhile, the wish to maintain regional peace and stability is shared by China and the majority of ASEAN members.

The United States, which is strengthening military alliance with Manila and has a huge stake in the region's stability, should comply with its promise to leave the countries concerned to settle their differences through bilateral talks.

Instead of spoiling its increasingly-paranoid junior ally and muddying the waters, Washington should keep Manila within bounds and try not to stir up tensions by backing it in territorial dispute.

After all, it won't serve Washington's interests if the dispute in the South China Sea spins out of control.

Editor: Shen Qing


Vietnam mobs set fire to foreign factories in anti-China protest

By Ho Binh Minh and Manuel Mogato
HANOI/MANILA Wed May 14, 2014 6:49am EDT
(Reuters) -

Thousands of Vietnamese set fire to factories and rampaged in industrial zones in the south of the country after protests against Chinese oil drilling in a part of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam, officials said on Wednesday.

The brunt appears to have been borne by Taiwanese companies in the zones in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces as rioters mistook the firms to be Chinese-owned. Vietnamese officials gave few details, but said gates to factories were smashed and windows were broken. Police said they were investigating.

A Singapore foreign ministry spokesman said the premises of a number of foreign companies were broken into and set on fire in the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIP) I and II in Binh Duong. The spokesman said the Singapore government had asked Vietnam to immediately restore law and order, but gave no other details.

"About 19,000 workers were demonstrating against China's violation of Vietnam's territorial waters," Tran Van Nam, vice chairman of the Binh Duong People's Committee, told local reporters in the province.

"Some workers turned angry, destroying companies' gates and entering the compounds and asking other workers to join a strike."

Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group said property was damaged by looters, but did not give details. There were no reports of injuries.

"Everyone is terrified and scared," said Serena Liu, chairwoman of the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.

"Some people tried to drive out of Binh Duong, but looters had put up road blocks."

Hong Kong-listed sports shoe maker Yue Yuen, which supplies footwear to Adidas, Nike and other international brands, said it had suspended production in Vietnam because of the protests.

China has urged Vietnam to "calm down" and respect China's sovereignty, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in comments to Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in a telephone call, Beijing's foreign ministry reported on its website.

Anti-China sentiment also surged in Manila, as the Philippine government accused Beijing of reclaiming land on a reef in disputed islands in another part of sea, apparently to build an airstrip. The action came only a day after Washington described Beijing's actions in the region as "provocative".

"If these reports are true, this would represent a significant step by the Chinese, potentially allowing them to extend their airborne reach," said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore's Institute of South East Asian Studies.

The spike in tensions over the oil- and gas-rich South China Sea comes just two weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama visited the region and expressed support for long-time allies Japan and the Philippines, both of which are locked in territorial disputes with China. Vietnam is also stepping up ties with the United States.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, an area rich in energy deposits and an important passageway traversed each year by $5 trillion worth of ship-borne goods.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the area.


Philippine foreign affairs department spokesman Charles Jose told Reuters that China had been moving earth and materials to Johnson South Reef, known by the Chinese as Chigua and which the Philippines calls Mabini Reef, in recent weeks.

He said China was reclaiming land in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an informal code of conduct for the region.

"I think they're to construct an airstrip there," Jose said.

Peter Paul Galvez, a defense department spokesman, said evidence of the Chinese activity on the reef had been shown in aerial photographs taken by the Philippine Navy. The Philippines and Taiwan already have airstrips in the area.

A senior Philippine air force official told Reuters that a landing strip in the area would give China better control of the air and sea lanes in the South China Sea.

"It will be easy for them to set up an air defense identification zone in the Spratlys," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

However, Richard Bitzinger, a military analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the airstrip was unlikely to be a strategic game-changer in the South China Sea because of the difficulty in building a workable runway on the atoll.

"It would be a nice tool to have in the box of options to project power, but it is probably going to be far too small to have a huge impact," Bitzinger said.

"At this point I would be very surprised to see this develop into any airbase of any significant size...China's holdings in the Spratlys are just too small.

"It is probably as much a political move as anything else, the laying down of one more marker to solidify their position and continue their campaign of creeping assertiveness."

Manila had already lodged a protest with the Chinese and raised the issue behind closed doors at last weekend's summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations in Myanmar, Jose said.

Tensions in the South China Sea were already high after China moved a large oil rig into an area claimed by Vietnam. Beijing and Hanoi each accused the other of ramming its ships near the disputed Paracel Islands.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that China's introduction of the oil rig and numerous government vessels into the area disputed with Vietnam was "provocative", a State Department spokeswoman said.

China said Kerry said no such thing in the phone call.

It said there had indeed been provocative action taken in the area but that it was not the guilty party, with the foreign ministry blaming the United States for encouraging such behavior. The ministry said Wang had urged Kerry to "act and speak cautiously".

Beijing says the South China Sea issue should be resolved by direct talks between those involved and has bristled at what it sees as unwarranted U.S. interference.

It has also looked askance at the U.S. "pivot" back to Asia, especially Washington's efforts to boost existing military links with Tokyo and Manila.

The remote and otherwise unremarkable Johnson South Reef has been a catalyst for conflict in the past. In March 1988, China and Vietnam fought a brief naval skirmish on and around the reef with up to 90 Vietnamese reported killed.

(Additional reporting by Greg Torode in Hong Kong, Faith Hung in Taipei, Rachel Armstrong in Singapore and Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)


Factories Torched In Anti-China Protest In Vietnam

by The Associated Press

NPR, May 14, 201412:13 AM ET

HANOI, Vietnam (AP)

Anti-China mobs torched up to 15 foreign-owned factories and trashed many more in southern Vietnam as anger over the recent deployment by China of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters span dangerously out of control, officials and state media said Wednesday.

The unrest at industrial parks established to attract foreign investors was the most serious outbreak of public disorder in the tightly controlled country in years. It points to the dangers for the government as it manages public anger at China and also protests itself against the Chinese deployment in a part of the South China Sea it claims as its own.

The unrest late Tuesday at a Singapore-run industrial park and others nearby followed protests by up to 20,000 workers at the complexes in Binh Duong province. Smaller groups attacked factories they believed were Chinese-run, but some were Taiwanese or South Korean, VnExpress website quoted Tran Van Nam, the deputy head of the province's people's committee, as saying.

On Wednesday morning, groups of men on motorbikes remained on the streets and all the factories in the area were closed, said one park manager, who declined to give his name because of sensitivities of the developments. Riot police had been deployed.

Another said many foreign-owned factories were putting banners on the gates of the factories saying "We love Vietnam" and "Hoang Sa, Truong Sa -Vietnam", using the Vietnamese terms for the Paracels and Spratlys Islands, South China Sea island chains disputed by Vietnam and China.

Nam said the protests Tuesday were initially peaceful but were hijacked by "extremists" who incited people to break into the factories. He said at least 15 factories were set alight and "hundreds" more vandalized or looted, while some security guards and unidentified "foreign experts" were assaulted.

Vietnam reacted angrily to the arrival of the deep-sea oil rig on May 1 close to the Paracel Islands, which are controlled by China but claimed by Hanoi. It has sent a flotilla of vessels to try and disrupt the rig. Some of the Vietnamese boats have clashed with Chinese ships sent to protect the oil rig.

Over the weekend, the government gave rare permission for street protests against China in cities across the country.

Those protests were enthusiastically covered the by the state media, unlike the ones on Tuesday.

The ruling Communist Parties in both countries maintain close links and until May 1 had been trying to handle tensions over the territorial disputes quietly. Vietnamese authorities are normally highly nervous of spontaneous public gatherings of any sort. Many of the leaders of the anti-Chinese protests are also calling for basic democratic reforms, presenting a challenge to one-party rule.

The standoff underlines China's intention to aggressively pursue its territorial claims in the South China Sea despite complaints from smaller nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines, which also claim parts of the waters. The United States, a treaty ally of the Philippines, has called the latest Chinese action "provocative."


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