Like A Thief in the Night

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By Erick San Juan

When China parked a giant oil rig in disputed waters off Vietnam, it confirmed what Washington and regional governments have long feared: Beijing is taking a major leap in the defense of its territorial claims, testing the resolve of rattled neighbors—as well as the U.S. (Asia News online 5/8/14)

‘Like a thief in the night’, such major leap will not sit well with the rest of the neighborhood especially claimants in the disputed areas in the South and East China Sea. As an observer of events and geopolitics, I have been saying through my radio program and my blog that given the premise (as most writers say) that war is inevitable, the epicenter is here, either with Vietnam or the Philippines (or both). For the nth time since I wrote this possibility of war between Vietnam and China way back in the 90’s, that crisis like this was designed to happen and as always – it could be delayed but sadly it will happen whether we like it or not.

When Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited the Philippines during the World Economic Forum on East Asia, economic and security issues were discussed and focused on the disputes with China over contested areas.

Reports from the WEF-EA: While stressing that Vietnam “strives for peace and stability in Asia Pacific,” Dung slammed China for violating international law and failing to adhere to his country’s demands to “immediately withdraw” a drilling rig it deployed near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

Speaking before the WEF at the Makati Shangri-la on Thursday, May 22, Dung said China’s actions “threaten peace, stability, and security and freedom of navigation and aviation” in the East Sea (South China Sea) and violate the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“Vietnam always wants peace and friendship,” Dung said in Vietnamese. “We have exercised utmost restraint and showed every… good goal and exhausted all dialogue channels to communicate with Chinese authorities of different levels by expressing protest and demanding China to immediately withdraw its drilling rig and its escorting vessels from the Vietnamese waters.”

He added: “We ask China to observe the 1982 UNCLOS. However, China (has failed) to respond to Vietnam’s legitimate demand. On the contrary, it has been slandering and blaming Vietnam while continuing to use force and escalating its increasingly adventurous and serious act of intimidation and violation.”

“The entire Vietnamese nation has been protesting against China,” Dung said. He added that his government has had to manage unrest over the dispute and punish law violators.

It was reported that more than 3,000 Chinese have already returned home from Vietnam following riots by Viet citizens protesting China’s deployment of an oil rig to the Paracels.

In an earlier e-mail sent exclusively to Reuters, Dung said, “Vietnam is considering various defense options, including legal actions in accordance with international law.”

The Philippines has said it wants Vietnam, along with Malaysia, to join its historic case against China over the disputed waters, parts of which it calls the West Philippine Sea. But Malaysia immediately countered that it won’t get involved.

Of course, peaceful resolutions to such crisis had to be done first but as I have warned before – confrontations like this will take place in a regular basis in the contested areas in the SCS among the claimants and China if there will be no clear discussions on the matter, and a possible regional conflict is in the offing.

The fact that China deployed the rig shortly after US Pres. Barack Obama’s Asia tour “underlines Beijing’s commitment to test the resolve of Vietnam, its Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] neighbors and Washington,” wrote security scholars Ernest Bower and Gregory Poling, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

China has laid claim to much of the South China Sea for years. Its intent to establish control hasn’t changed, security analysts say. But under President Xi Jinping, China’s government has begun to more aggressively demonstrate its capabilities, courting more direct conflict with neighbors—trends that have prompted deep worry in Washington. A senior State Department official on a visit to Hanoi on Thursday said the U.S. is “very concerned about any dangers.” (Vietnam Spat Represents a Chinese Leap by Brian Spegele and Vu Trong Khanh, 5/8/14)

Given the escalated tensions in the South China Sea through provocations, only a miscalculation could bring the response that has been predicted long time that will spark the conflict.

After a century since the Great War (First World War), is the world ripe for another global war?
Here we go again!!!