Warning on Vietnam-China armed confrontation in the East Sea (South China Sea) in 2020

Chinese President Xi Jinping vs General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong

The issue of the East Sea is getting hotter, especially the tension between the two communist states has reached its peak in recent years. US experts think that there is a high possibility that Vietnam will be among the countries that will clash with China in the near future.

A research organization of the United States recently made a comment on the possibility of armed conflict in 2020 in many “hot spots” in the world, including the East Sea.

Based on the assessment of US foreign policy experts on 30 potential conflicts that could occur or escalate next year, as well as their impact on U.S. interests, Foreign said that “a confrontation between the US and Iran, North Korea, or China in the East Sea remains the biggest concern abroad.”

The organization, where Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh used to speak on Vietnam’s foreign policy, said the East Sea was one of the “top priorities for the United States” in 2020.

Commenting on the “high” impact and “moderate” likelihood, the Foreign Affairs Council mentioned “an armed confrontation around disputed territorial waters in the South China Sea between China and one or more Southeast Asian countries also claim sovereignty such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, or even Taiwan.”

The situation in the East Sea is heating up in the last months of 2019 because of the “confrontation” of maritime vessels with two northern neighbors in the Vanguard Bank, as well as China’s Hai Duong 8 exploration ship entering the territorial sea within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zones.

The researcher added that like India, Vietnam “has no military allies and is forced to confront China’s aggression alone.”

The year 2019 marked the first time in a decade that Vietnam published the White Paper Defense, in which China was repeatedly mentioned, especially on issues related to the East Sea.

“The difference between Vietnam and China in the issue of sovereignty in the East Sea needs to be handled with utmost care, vigilance, in order not to negatively affect the great peace, friendship and development cooperation of the two countries,” wrote the Vietnam National Defense White Book.

“Resolving disputes in the East Sea is a long, difficult and complicated process because it involves many countries and many parties. The two sides should continue negotiating and seek peaceful solutions on the basis of international law.”

On January 1, Indonesia rejected China’s sovereignty claims over a part of the East Sea because the claims were “without legal basis.”

Earlier, on December 30, 2019, Jakarta protested to Beijing about the presence of a Chinese coast guard ship entering its territorial waters.

Indonesia’s top officials spoke out “strongly opposed” and summoned the Chinese ambassador in Jakarta, saying that the Chinese coast guard had violated Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone off the northern coast of Natuna island.

Speaking in Beijing on December 31, 2019, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said that China had sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and its waters, and both China and Indonesia had “normal” fishing activities there.

The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly responded and called on China to explain “clear legal and border basis” of its claims to the area, based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry said: “China’s claim to Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone has no legal basis and has never been recognized by 1982 UNCLOS.”

Jakarta also reiterated China’s claim to territorial disputes with the Philippines, rejected in 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Earlier, on October 1, 1919, China launched a strategic transcontinental nuclear missile, named Dong Phong 41, with a range of up to 15,000 km, which experts considered a “signal” to countries claiming territoria and waters in the East Sea like Vietnam, and even the United States.

During the parade of China’s 70-year founding day with the participation of 15,000 soldiers, more than 160 aircraft and nearly 600 military equipment, this Dong Phong 41 rocket platform was transported through Thien An Mon square under witness of President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials.

President Xi Jinping on Chinese National Day Parade

Some experts say that the National Day “is an opportunity for them to express themselves more clearly and to affirm all their threats.”

An important hypothesis is that if current tensions in the East Sea lead to full conflict, it seems increasingly likely that the first target that China will attack will be Vietnam.

The two sides have confronted each other in the energy-rich Vanguard Bank, but neither side seems to want to back down. China is still opposed to other claimants exploiting resources in disputed waters, but the current confrontation with Vietnam can serve a dual strategic purpose for Beijing.

Derek Grossman, a defense analyst argued that if China launches a military attack in the East Sea, the chosen opponent would most likely be Vietnam.

Vietnam Coast Guard vessel

Vietnam is an ASEAN member and has veto power. While countries like Cambodia and Laos want a softer language with China, Vietnam also has the right to demand a stronger language for China on the South China Sea issue, otherwise Vietnam has the right to veto, which will lead to diplomatic breakdowns, deadlock in ASEAN meetings, something that no one wants.
If Vietnam is stronger and stronger, if it fails to achieve its full will, it will at least partially protect it. And if Vietnam does not speak up, do not take tough positions then Vietnam will be a losing party.
Currently, Vietnam also has the United States, a potential future partner, which could help Vietnam more balanced in relation. But this would lead to a conflict in the East Sea.
Vietnam is a country that has experienced thousands of years of colonial domination. In the course of history, the northern hegemony has always sought ways to invade Vietnam, as evidenced by the most recent wars of aggression in 1974 when China attacked the South Vietnam and seized the Hoàng Sa (Paracels)
In 1979 China invaded the northern provinces of Vietnam, killing tens of thousands of women, children, the elderly and Vietnamese army soldiers.

Most recently, in 1988, 64 Vietnamese People’s Army soldiers were also killed by China on Gac Ma (Johnson South Reef) under Vietnam’s sovereignty.
All that said, Vietnam needs to be vigilant to China.
The safety of nearly 100 million Vietnamese people, the prosperity of the country can only be guaranteed when Hanoi abandons communism to become an ally of the United States and the Democratic and Free countries in the world.

Trung Hiếu (Reported from Ha noi)- Thoibao.de