Vietnam to challenge China

China wants to ban naval drills such as this one by a US carrier battle group in the South China Sea.

Vietnam is openly challenging China’s growing dominance in the South China Sea according to documents seen by the Reuters news agency.

Hanoi wants to ban many of the actions taken by China in recent years to strengthen its grip on the disputed waters.

The position is reportedly contained in a negotiating draft to be presented at talks between China and ASEAN countries on a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

Vietnam is pushing for a ban on the building of artificial islands and the deployment of missiles as well as any declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone of the type Beijing imposed on the East China Sea in 2013.

China’s military strategy has been based on the rapid transformation of semi-submerged reefs into fully operational naval and air bases, some of which are already fortified with radar and missile systems.

In an uncharacteristically direct manner, Hanoi is also demanding that states clarify the exact nature of their territorial claims and how they conform to international law.

China claims much of the South China Sea within an arbitrarily drawn “nine-dash-line”, which intrudes deep into the EEZs of a number of states including Vietnam and the Philippines.

China claims “historical” ownership of the waters in clear defiance of international law, but has so far avoided specifying the exact coordinates of the line.

Vietnam appears to be trying to force China to show its hand, thereby generating a likely backlash from fellow ASEAN countries and support from others, including the United States, Japan and Europe which see the SCS as a key international sea lane.

Beijing has sought to undermine ASEAN’s position by using close allies in the region, particularly Cambodia, to block a strong unified position.

Analysts say that a direct challenge from Vietnam will lead to an angry response from China.

Beijing has been attempting to strengthen its position in the region by calling for a ban on military drills involving outside powers, and the blocking of joint ventures with foreign companies for the exploitation of oil and gas reserves.

China and ASEAN countries reported some progress at the talks on a code of conduct in 2018, but analysts say that China continues to drag its feet while it consolidates its military control of the region.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled to be held in Myanmar in the coming months.