Backed by its arsenal of modern ships, submarines, warplanes and missiles, Beijing has become increasingly assertive over its territorial disputes with its neighbours, writes International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. The most recent — and most dangerous — case is in the South China Sea, an area of many territorial disputes including between China and Vietnam. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s column:
The Chinese government seems determined to provoke a military clash with its neighbours over disputed ownership of islands and conflicting maritime boundaries.
This week’s clashes between Vietnamese naval and coast guard vessels, and Chinese ships defending a deep-sea oil rig Beijing’s state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has parked in disputed waters in the South China Sea is the most dangerous confrontation in the area in many years.
China is reported to have deployed about 80 ships to the area, supported by aircraft, and Hanoi has sent 29 vessels to disrupt the rig’s placement and operations. The clashes have left sailors on both sides injured and several of the ships damaged in collisions, but no lethal weapons have been used so far.
In these situations it is easy for mistakes or misjudgements to be made, and for violence to swiftly spiral out of control.
It is particularly dangerous because Beijing clearly intended the positioning of the rig to be provocative … more.*
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