South China Sea: Beijing plans to unleash ‘monster’ vessels to stop British ship
A three-way standoff has broken out in the South China Sea after Malaysia explored waters outside its economic exclusion zone, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, leaving China and Vietnam livid. For the past three weeks the countries have been wrestling for control as part of the wider battle for oil rich waters in the region. But the new flashpoint has been sparked by a British drillship – the West Capella – deployed by Malaysia to an area which lies within the Malaysia-Vietnam Joint Defined Area (JDA) as well as China’s Nine-Dash Line.
The Nine-Dash Line serves as a demarcation for what Beijing believes to be its waters.
The South China Sea is hotly contested because of its lucrative shipping lanes, capacity for strategic military advantages and wealth of natural resources such as oil and minerals.
This has provoked drastic action from both Vietnam and China, who have deployed significant naval firepower to the area to disrupt and stop Malaysia’s energy exploration activities through intimidation.
This includes Beijing’s so-called “monster” China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels.
Malaysia’s move threatens to “undermine whatever solidarity Southeast Asian parties might hope to build in their oil and gas disputes with Beijing,” the ATMI report says.
The report also highlights the aggression from Chinese forces – something that could cause a clash in the future.
The report adds: “Chinese militia and law enforcement ships continue to approach dangerously close to the rig and supply vessels, creating risks of collision as they have during other oil and gas operations over the last year.”
Malaysia and China have already clashed once in the last few months, as a damning statement from Kuala Lumpur called Beijing’s Nine-Dash Line waters claim “ridiculous”.
Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said in December: “For China to claim that the whole of South China Sea belongs to China, I think that is ridiculous.”
A surprising factor in the latest tensions flare up is the seemingly shared anger between Vietnam and China – two countries with a long and hostile history in the South China Sea.
A Chinese oil survey vessel – The Haiyang Dizhi 8 – only recently pulled away from Vietnam’s EEZ after 3 months of resource exploration.
Beijing tried to pressure Vietnam into halting its exploration of seas and resources in contested waters, but in July China sent fleets to the Vanguard Bank, an area that also lies in the Vietnam EEZ.
South China Sea fury: Vietnam ‘spy boats infiltrating Beijing waters’ [INSIGHT]
South China Sea: Beijing sends ships to Philippines-occupied islands [ANALYSIS]
South China Sea: Philippines row pushes Trump into backing down [INSIGHT]
On February 17, 1979, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops crossed Vietnam’s northern border to invade the country, waging a bloody strike along the 370-mile border that the two nations share.
In 1988, 64 Vietnamese soldiers were killed in a conflict over the Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea.
A fresh standoff only adds to fears of conflict breaking out in the region – an outcome that could even bring the US and China to blows.
Source: Read Full Article