Vietnam tilts to US as tensions rise over oil-rich South China Sea
Hundreds of Vietnamese turned out to protest against Chinese naval operations in disputed waters of the South China Sea on June 5. the protesters in Hanoi marched on the Chinese embassy, shouting slogans including "The Paracels and Spratlys belong to Vietnam"" and "Stop Chinese invasion of Vietnam's islands." The demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City follow a May 26 confrontation between a Vietnamese oil and gas survey ship and Chinese patrol boats. Hanoi accused the Chinese vessels of cutting the cables of the Vietnamese ship conducting seismic research about 120 kilometers off Vietnam's south-central coast. (BBC News, June 5)
As Vietnamese relations with Chine deteriorate, Hanoi has been moving closer to the United States. The US and Vietnam held unprecedented joint naval exercises last year after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended a South East Asian cooperation summit in Hanoi, where she stated that the US has a “national interest” in mediating disputes between China and its neighbors. (Atlantic Sentinel, May 31)
The South China Sea, which is emerging as a strategic source of hydrocarbons, was also the scene of a near-confrontation between US and Chinese ships two years ago. These developments come as tensions are also escalating between China and Japan over the East China Sea.