Archive for Southeast Asia Sea

Vietnam’s Role, and Leverage in the Southeast Asia Sea

Posted in IV. Columns, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2012 by Ian Pham

This past Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta paid a visit to Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay, a major U.S. base used during the Vietnam War.  The visit yielded agreements between the U.S. and Vietnam to open restricted military sites in Vietnam that would permit searches for MIA soldiers of the war.  Behind these agreements however, is the continuation of a deeper goal, the further normalization of relations between two former enemies.

As of today, Panetta is the most senior American official to visit Cam Ranh Bay.  Not only does this visit signify the developing ties between the two sides, it also signifies America’s national interests in Vietnam as a key player in the Southeast Asia Sea.  According to American analysts, Vietnam currently holds a decisive role in shaping the balance of power in the Southeast Asia Sea.  The Center for a New American Security professes that Vietnam is arguably the pivotal player, or “swing-state” for what happens in the sea.  If Vietnam fails to step up to an increasingly assertive China, smaller countries like the Philippines have little chance of resisting.

These insights paint a vivid picture of Vietnam’s potential in dealing with Chinese hegemony.  Of the many countries in Asia at this point in time, Vietnam remains the key obstacle against Chinese expansionism.  As a result, the U.S. continues to pursue better relations with the country.  Unfortunately, these warming relations comes at the cost of human rights in Vietnam.  To keep Vietnam from running into the arms of the Chinese, the United States must turn a blind eye to the atrocious human rights record of Vietnam.  This is the American dilemma.  In order to keep U.S.-Vietnam relations on the right track, the United States is forced to soften its stance on human rights.

Nonetheless, this reality outlines the importance of Vietnam’s role in dealing with Chinese hegemony in the South China Sea.  Vietnam can very well be the difference maker in China’s success or failure in this territorial dispute, and has the power to counter China’s influence in Southeast Asia.  America understands this, and Vietnam understands this.  This is one major reason why the two countries have become so close in recent years, with an increasingly nervous and aggressive China on the periphery.  Though the human rights abuses continue to cause friction between Vietnam and the U.S., the China issue continues to bring the two closer together.

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Standing One’s Ground… In the Sea

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by Ian Pham

Tensions have been flaring between the Philippines and China over a topic we know all too well: sovereignty in the Southeast Asia Sea.  As China continues to pursue its rapacious claims over the entire sea in Southeast Asia, one country has stepped up to challenge the Asian giant’s “indisputable” claims of “indisputable” sovereignty, which, along with every other claim China is making, are “indisputable.”  This gutsy contestation comes from China’s little neighbor to the east, the Philippines.

The incident began in early April, when Filippino authorities spotted eight Chinese naval vessels stationed near the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal.  What followed was a four day standoff between the Philippines and China near Filippino territory, from the identification of the Chinese ships on 6 April 2012, to the near detainment of these vessels on 10 April 2012.  To this day, the diplomatic crisis between China and the Philippines remains unresolved, as neither country shows any sign of backing down.

China’s government and state-run media agencies continue to threaten the Philippines with economic and military retribution if the country continues to resist the assertions of the PRC.  China has increased, and continues to increase, the number of military vessels deployed near the disputed Scarborough islands, which the Chinese call Huangyan.  Tourism from China to the Philippines have been blocked, and the Chinese Embassy in Manila continues to accuse the Philippines of violating China’s “indisputable” sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the Filippino people have gathered in protest outside of the Chinese embassy, sending their message to the Chinese government.  They carry with them signs saying “Stop Chinese Aggression Now!”, “China Back Off!”, and the like.  The Philippines government has also taken a tough stance against the PRC, standing by their people in the face of Chinese aggression.  The country has made military purchases in preparation of armed conflict with the PRC.  Weapons have been purchased from the U.S., with further transactions planned with Japan and South Korea.

Even with these new military expenditures however, the Philippines will still be no match for China in terms of military capability.  The People’s Republic of China exponentially dwarfs the Philippines in military spending.  Materially, the Philippines does not stand a chance against China, the giant to the west.  That being said, the Philippines has taken the necessary steps to defend the rights of their people.  Though they are outclassed and outnumbered, the Philippines refuse to bow down to the demands of a foreign bully, putting them leaps and bounds above the Communists in Vietnam.

Unlike the Communists in Vietnam, who refuse to stand up to the terrorist activities of the Chinese navy, the Philippines is not afraid to speak out.  When the Chinese military kidnapped and terrorized the fishermen of Vietnam, the VCP remained silent on the matter for months at a time.  Any attempt by the people of Vietnam to stand up for their fellow Vietnamese were met with heavy repression by the Communist Party in Vietnam.  Even the brief protests permitted by the Vietnamese government last summer have been quashed for fear of a vengeful PRC.  Put simply, Filippino President Benigno Aquino has resoundingly accomplished what Nguyen Tan Dung was too cowardly to follow though with.

China may be stronger than the Philippines for the time being, but the Philippines has the world on its side.  The Filippino people are fully in support of their government in defence against China, and continue to do so with no hesitation.  Furthermore, the basis of the Philippines arguments are based on international law, which follow the guidelines of the international community.  China’s rebuttal of “indisputable” historical claims remain to be proven, with the recurring term “indisputable” as their only source of defence.  As long as the Philippines stays firm in defence of its people, China will have a very difficult time in Southeast Asia.

Finally, the Vietnamese Government Lay Claims to Paracel and Spratly

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , on December 2, 2011 by Ian Pham

After months of beating around the bush, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has finally released an official claim to the Paracal and Spratly Islands.  Vietnam was the formal the occupier of the Paracel and Spratly Islands since the 18th and 19th centuries, until the Chinese invaded Paracel in 1974, and Spratly in 1988.  The Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam was the first country to explore and occupy these islands, becoming the sole patron of both Spratly and Paracel for nearly two centuries.  In the 1950’s onward, the Republic of Vietnam held the islands.

Nguyen Tan Dung has formally declared that Paracel and Spratly belong to Vietnam, and has stated that he is willing to use military force to defend the islands from China.  According to Bloomberg News, the Prime Minister is also looking to establish talks regarding the Chinese occupation of Paracel which, as mentioned above, once belonged to Vietnam, and, in legal terms, still belongs to Vietnam.  The Chinese acquisition of Paracel and the current pieces of Spratly are illegal, and still does not constitute as Chinese territory under international law.  Though the PRC holds the islands formally, their rule is illegitimate, and is contestable by Vietnam with historical evidence (and with some help from the military).

The Vietnamese government has announced that they will support the patriotism of the Vietnamese people, so long as that is all the people project.  In other words, the people of Vietnam are free to demonstrate against China, but if their is ever a hint of calls for democratization, the government will shut it down by force.  The official announcement by PM Nguyen Tan Dung on Paracel and Spratly is definitely positive for the country, though it has been long overdue.  There is so much more that the Vietnamese people need, and if the government wants to know what that is, they might want to take a look at Burma.

Chinese Vessel, In Vietnamese Waters, Rammed by Vietnamese Ship (Footage)

Posted in Politics, Videos with tags , , on November 13, 2011 by Ian Pham

The following video shows how a Chinese ship, while trekking into Vietnamese territory, gets pursued by the Vietnamese coastguard, warned, and subsequently rammed by the Vietnamese ship.  There was some skepticism at first on whether this video is authentic or not, but after some careful deliberation, it is more likely than not that this footage is real.  The Vietnamese did chase after a Chinese boat, this is their footage.

I’ll say right off the bat that the Vietnamese are probably the aggressors in this video, as they were the ones to chase down and collide with the Chinese ship.  However, to what extent can we call the Vietnamese the aggressors?  After all, this is just a response to what the Chinese have been doing for years now.  For the longest time, the Chinese have been committing these rimes with no response by the Vietnamese Communists at all.  Furthermore, the Chinese not only rammed the Vietnamese boats, but went as far as to confiscate, kidnap, and murder the civilians on board as well.

This is just a kind response from the Vietnamese government to Beijing, one that has been long overdue.  For too long, the government in Hanoi has remained silent about China and the piracy that they have been committing.  From the looks of things, the new leaders of Vietnam’s Communist Party are less tolerant of China’s belligerence and bullying tactics.  They are willing to call the Chinese out on the crimes they have been committing, which puts them above their predecessors.  However, they are still totalitarians, they are still corrupted, so they are still not that great.

In the Southeast Asia Sea, a Chinese Warning to an Indian Vessel

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , on September 2, 2011 by Ian Pham

Beijing has found yet another competitor to its claims in the South China Sea.  This time, the recipient of its aggressive antics is India, China’s large neighbour to the southwest. During its friendly visit to Vietnam, the Indian naval vessel INS Airavat received a radio signal from someone who claimed to be from the Chinese Navy.  Officials in India have said that the man on the radio sent a warning to the Indian vessel, claiming that they were entering “Chinese waters,” demanding identification and an explanation from the vessel for its presence in the area.

Although the act did not spark a military confrontation between China and India, it clearly signifies China’s assertive claims over these open waters. Like other nations, India believes in freedom of navigation through these waters, in accordance to the guidelines of international law.  China however, rejects the agreements and guidelines set by international law and UNCLOS, exerting their claims to the entire Sea of Southeast Asia.

It would be interesting to note that the INS Airavat did not even trek toward Chinese waters.  The Indian vessel was navigating off the coast of Vietnam, 45 nautical miles off the port of Nha Trang, heading to Hai Phong for a port call.  Judging by what is shown, it would be fair to argue that although the Chinese sent the signal to the Indian vessel, it was also intended as a shot towards the Vietnamese.  This incident took place on July 22, 2011, off the coastal province of Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Vietnam Protest Update

Posted in Politics, Society with tags , , , , , on July 27, 2011 by Ian Pham

The protests in Vietnam are still going on, every sunday as a matter of fact.  Even now, the people in Vietnam continue their display of national unity against the PRC.  Paracel and Spratly are an integral part of Vietnam, something that the people will never let go without a fight.  The Chinese government think they can move in on these islands easily, but they are sadly mistaken.  The Vietnamese Communist Party may be afraid of the Chinese, but the people of Vietnam are not.

No one can tell how long these protests will go on for, either way, it is good for the country.  It is rare for the government to let the people come together for a peaceful demonstration, and I judge them for not letting the people express themselves to the fullest extent.  This patriotic display has the potential to spark some substantial change in Vietnam’s political landscape.  Furthermore, this fledgling movement has the potential to change this uneven relationship between Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China.  If the people of Vietnam were bred, nurtured, and utilized to build and defend the country, then this coming war with China may not be so inevitable after all.

The Communist Party in Vietnam are worried that if they were to utilize the strength of the Vietnamese people, it will ultimately lead to the fall of their autocratic rule.  That is one way of looking at it, but they should consider the positives.  Exiting in a peaceful and progressive manner would greatly reduce the amount of bloodshed that would surely come from a violent revolution.  There are numerous scenarios of how the Communists could fall in the near future, and doing so with the modest support, or at least the sympathy of the Vietnamese population is much better than being ripped to shreds by a revolutionary force that has lost all sense of emotion and mercy for this tired and spineless regime.

Vietnam’s Communist government is riddled with problems, both politically and economically.  The deplorable human rights record, double-digit inflation that is only getting worse, intimidation and aggression by the Chinese military, and discontent among the population back home.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, and any of these can act as a catalyst that sparks the eventual collapse of the Vietnamese Communist Party.  This is the situation and the Communist Party are presented a choice.  Either they get dragged out kicking and screaming by a bloody revolution (or worse yet, a Chinese invasion), or go respectfully (and I use that term loosely) and let the people decide peacefully.  It will take a tremendous amount of courage for them to do the right thing, but in the end it will save their lives.  They should think about that.

Suppressing Patriotism, What a Shame

Posted in IV. Columns, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , , on June 28, 2011 by Ian Pham

Above is a photo snapped during the first of this series of sunday protests in Vietnam, on June 5, 2011.  This is an interesting photo, if one were to just take a look at some of the simple details in the picture, you will see what I mean.  On one side, we have the anger and passion in the eyes of the protesters, expressing their love for their country under attack.  On the other end, we have the Communist Police, looking down in shame because they realize that what they are doing is wrong.  In suppressing the protests in Vietnam, the Communist Police are only preventing their own people from protecting their country.  Thus, the Communist Police, through the orders of the Communist Party, are suppressing patriotism.

It is a shame that in a country like Communist Vietnam, one can get arrested for showing love for one’s country.  Many of the dissidents detained in recent years are only guilty of one thing, if you can even call it guilt in the first place, loving their nation.  It is good that the VCP decided to let the people protest against China as of late, but even this has been long overdue.  The latest protests in Vietnam, happening only days ago, were not as big as they were supposed to be.  The security forces in Vietnam have become weary of the size of the demonstrations, which have been steadily growing in successive weeks.  As a result, they have taken measures to contain the size of these protests, making sure that the movement does not gain too much momentum.

This is unfortunate, Vietnam has so much strength and potential, yet the Communist Party refuses to acknowledge this.  They are afraid that if the movement gets too strong, it would ultimately lead to the fall of Communist rule in Vietnam.  For this reason, they are expending their energy controlling the population instead of using this energy to strengthen the country.  Right now, there are millions of people willing to give their lives to defend the nation.  They are brave, fearless, with undying love for their homeland.  Instead of  suppressing these people, the Communist Party should be embracing them.  Judging from the looks of things, even the Communist Police are feeling shame for holding down the patriotic movement in Vietnam.  If the Communist Party could summon the courage to accommodate the positive forces instead of fighting them, the end result will be much less painful for them.  Something they should think about.