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Restless and rising: naval tension growing between China and its Asian neighbors

June 10, 2011BEIJING – China has accused Vietnam of “gravely violating” its sovereignty in an escalating row over disputed waters in the South China Sea. Beijing said Vietnam had endangered Chinese sailors’ lives and warned it to stop “all invasive activities.” It follows an accusation by Vietnam that a Chinese fishing boat rammed cables from an oil exploration vessel inside its exclusive economic zone. China is engaged in maritime border disputes with several countries. The South China Sea includes important shipping routes and may contain rich oil and gas deposits. The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have rival claims in the area; China’s claim is by far the largest. The US has also expressed concern about China’s rising naval ambitions. -BBC
Hundreds of protesters descended on the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi on Sunday to protest an incident in which a Chinese vessel allegedly deliberately cut a submerged cable for a Vietnamese oil survey ship conducting seismic tests. The Philippines has also accused China of putting up military posts on reefs claimed by Manila. Regional belief in this peaceful rise has been eroded over the past year by a combination of incidents, including with India and Japan, and by China’s evident success in moving toward possessing advanced weapons systems, some of which in principle can match those of the United States and Russia. Some of those must be viewed as strategic assets of limited relevance to more localized potential conflicts. But one new asset that is both a global statement and new potential threat to immediate neighbors is about to enter the arena to again attempt to rewrite a history that does not always square with the facts. That is China’s first aircraft carrier, a 67,000 ton monster that began life as a partly-finished Soviet vessel that was sold to China by Ukraine in 1998. Reports suggest it will enter service this year based out of a southern Chinese port with a complement of about 50 aircraft and pilots who have been practicing carrier landing and takeoffs on improvised platforms and de-commissioned carriers. All reports to date say that the aircraft carrier is to be named “Shi Lang.” This was the name of the general who conquered Taiwan in 1683 for the recently established Qing dynasty, finally defeating the Ming general, Zheng Chenggong. Zheng fled to the island to escape the Qing, pushing the Dutch out in 1662 and establishing a small state around what is now the city of Tainan. -Jakarta Globe

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