Vietnam condemns China’s sea claims as ‘serious violation’

Updated 05 December 2012
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Vietnam condemns China’s sea claims as ‘serious violation’

HANOI/NEW DELHI: Vietnam condemned yesterday China’s claims to disputed South China Sea islands as a serious violation of its sovereignty after saying it was setting up patrols to protect its fisheries and accusing Chinese boats of sabotage.
The condemnation of China’s claims to the sea and its numerous reefs and tiny islands was the strongest yet from Vietnam since tension flared this year and came after India declared itself ready to send navy ships to safeguard its interests in the disputed waters.
Claims by an increasingly powerful China over most of the South China Sea have set it directly against US allies Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also claim parts of the mineral-rich waters.
Vietnam’s condemnation came a day after its state oil and gas company, Petrovietnam, accused Chinese boats of sabotaging an exploration operation by cutting a seismic cable being towed behind a Vietnamese boat.
Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the cable cutting as well as some recent Chinese provincial regulations that identified the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands as Chinese, and a map that did the same thing.
“The actions of the Chinese side have seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the two archipelagos,” the spokesman, Luong Thanh Nghi, said in a statement.
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry officials met representatives of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi on Monday, Nghi said.
The Vietnamese officials handed over a diplomatic note “resolutely opposing the above mentioned actions by the Chinese side, asking China to respect Vietnam’s sovereignty, to immediately stop such wrongful acts and not to repeat similar actions.” Earlier, Vietnam said civilian-led patrols, backed by marine police and a border force, would be deployed from Jan. 25 to stop foreign vessels violating fishing laws in Vietnam’s waters.
A decree on the Vietnamese patrols was signed on Nov. 29, the day Chinese media announced new rules authorizing police in the southern Chinese province of Hainan to board and seize foreign ships in the South China Sea.
“It’s going to lead to friction,” Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia security expert at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said of China’s new rules that take effect from Jan. 1 on boarding ships which “illegally enter” waters it claims.
“If it begins to assert these rights and isn’t challenged, over time it becomes customary, it becomes practice.” On Monday, Petrovietnam said the seismic vessel had been operating outside the Gulf of Tonkin when the cable was severed on Friday. It had earlier been surveying the Nam Con Son basin further south — an area where Indian state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) has a stake in a Vietnamese gas field.
Petrovietnam posted on its website comments by the deputy head of exploration, Pham Viet Dung, in which he said the cable was repaired and the survey resumed the following day.
Asked about the complaint, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a briefing in Beijing that China was checking the reports of the incident, which he said was understood to have taken place in an area of overlapping claims.

India ready
India has also declared itself ready to deploy naval vessels to the South China Sea to protect its oil-exploration interests there, a new source of tension in a disputed area where fears of conflict have been growing steadily.
Indian navy chief, Admiral D.K Joshi, said on Monday that, while India was not a territorial claimant in the South China Sea, it was prepared to act, if necessary, to protect its maritime and economic interests in the region.
“When the requirement is there, for example, in situations where our country’s interests are involved, for example ONGC ... we will be required to go there and we are prepared for that,” Joshi told a news conference.
“Now, are we preparing for it? Are we having exercises of that nature? The short answer is yes,” he said.
An Indian government spokesman yesterday played down the comments: “This is an issue for the parties concerned to resolve.” India is not the only non-claimant nation concerned about disruption to shipping or oil exploration in the South China Sea. The United States, a close ally to several of the Southeast Asian claimants, has also voiced concern at the prospect of China stopping international ships in contested waters.
India has sparred diplomatically with China in the past over its gas and oil exploration block off the coast of Vietnam.
Any display of naval assertiveness by India in the South China Sea would likely fuel concern that the navies of the two rapidly growing Asian giants could be on a collision course as they seek to protect trade routes and lock in the supply of coal, minerals and other raw material from foreign sources. Joshi described the modernization of China’s navy as “truly impressive” and a source of major concern for India.
Asked what China would do if Indian navy entered the South China Sea to protect its oil interests, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong, said China had “indisputable sovereignty” over the sea’s islands and surrounding waters.
“China opposes unilateral oil and gas development in disputed waters of the South China Sea. We hope that concerned countries respect China’s position and rights, and respect efforts made through bilateral talks to resolve disputes.” Singapore, home to the world’s second-busiest container port, joined the Philippines on Monday in expressing concern at the prospect of Chinese police boarding ships. The Philippines on Saturday condemned the Chinese plan as illegal.
Estimates for proven and undiscovered oil reserves in the South China Sea range as high as 213 billion barrels of oil, the US Energy Information Administration said in a 2008 report. That would surpass the proven oil reserves of every country except Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, according to the BP Statistical Review.
On Monday, China’s National Energy Administration said China aims to produce 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year from the South China Sea by 2015.
It said the sea would “form the main part” of China’s offshore gas exploration plans.


Leaders of two Koreas hold surprise meeting as Trump revives summit hopes

Updated 27 May 2018
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Leaders of two Koreas hold surprise meeting as Trump revives summit hopes

SEOUL/WASHINGTON: South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a surprise meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday in an effort to ensure that a high-stakes summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump takes place successfully, South Korean officials said.
The meeting was the latest dramatic turn in a week of diplomatic flip-flops surrounding the prospects for an unprecedented summit between the United States and North Korea, and the strongest sign yet that the two Korean leaders are trying to keep the on-again off-again summit on track.
Their two hours of talks at the Panmunjom border village came a month after they held the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade at the same venue. At that meeting, they declared they would work toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
“The two leaders candidly exchanged views about making the North Korea-US summit a successful one and about implementing the Panmunjom Declaration,” South Korea’s presidential spokesman said in a statement. He did not confirm how the meeting was arranged or which side asked for it.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment. But White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said an advance team of White House and US State Department officials would leave for Singapore on schedule this weekend to prepare for a possible summit there.
Reuters reported earlier this week that a US advance team was scheduled to discuss the agenda and logistics for the summit with North Korean officials.
“There is a very strong possibility a US-North Korea summit could be back on very soon,” said Harry Kazianis of the conservative Center for the National Interest think-tank in Washington.
Whether one takes place depends on Kim agreeing to some sort of a realistic and verifiable denuclearization plan, added Kazianis, citing his own Trump administration sources. “If not, no summit. That is what it hinges on,” he said.
TRUMP HAILS “PRODUCTIVE TALKS“
In a letter to Kim on Thursday, Trump had said he was canceling the summit planned for June 12 in Singapore, citing North Korea’s “open hostility.”
But on Friday he indicated the meeting could be salvaged after welcoming a conciliatory statement from Pyongyang.
“We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
In a tweet later, Trump cited “very productive talks” and said that if the summit were reinstated it would likely remain in Singapore on June 12, and that it could be extended if necessary.
A senior White House official told reporters on Thursday that organizing a summit by June 12 could be a challenge, given the amount of dialogue needed to ensure a clear agenda.
“And June 12 is in ... 10 minutes,” the official said.
If the summit is not held, some analysts warn that the prospect of a military confrontation between the two nations would rise, while a successful summit would mark Trump’s biggest foreign policy achievement.
The Trump administration is demanding that North Korea completely and irreversibly shutter its nuclear weapons program. Kim and Trump’s initial decision to meet followed months of war threats and insults between the leaders over the program.
Pyongyang has conducted six nuclear tests, and has developed a long-range missile that could theoretically hit anywhere in the United States. Experts, however, are doubtful that North Korea possesses a warhead capable of surviving the stresses of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
Video and a photo released by South Korea’s presidential Blue House on Saturday showed Kim hugging Moon and kissing him on the cheek three times as he saw Moon off after their meeting at Tongilgak, the North’s building in the truce village, which lies in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) — the 2.5-mile (4 km) wide buffer that runs along the heavily armed military border.
Video footage also showed Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, greeting Moon as he arrived at Tongilgak and shaking hands, before the South Korean leader entered the building flanked by North Korean military guards.
Moon is the only South Korean leader to have met a North Korean leader twice, both times in the DMZ, which is a symbol of the unending hostilities between the nations after the Korean War ended in 1953 in a truce, not a peace treaty.