South China Sea Current Affairs

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US lifts embargo on sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam

United States has fully lifted its embargo on sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam, its one-time enemy. This move of US removed a lingering vestige of the Cold War that was seen in South East Asia in 1970’s.

It was announced by US President Barack Obama during his official state visit to Vietnam and after talks with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang.

He is the third US President to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Other two Presidents were Bill Clinton (visited in 2000) and George W. Bush (2006).

US Arms embargo on Vietnam has been in place since 1984 over the human rights issue. In recent times Vietnam had been arguing for an end to this embargo, which was partially lifted in 2014.

Comment

Experts believe that US is trying to bolster its relationship with its Pacific allies, as China asserts territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea. Vietnam is one of several South east Asian countries in the region involved in maritime disputes with China.

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Chinese Navy conducts drills in South China Sea

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (Chinese Navy) conducted several naval drills in disputed South China Sea (SCS) by employing its major destroyers and frigates, carrier-based helicopters and new submarines.

Key facts

  • The naval exercise was based out of the Sanya training base of the Chinese Navy which mainly focused on anti-submarine warfare.
  • It was conducted as part of a regular annual naval drill aimed at implementing President Xi Jinping’s call for a military that is capable of fighting and winning wars.
  • Chinese navy claims that these drills have vigorously improved the Chinese navy’s anti-submarine combat abilities based on informationalised systems.
  • However, they have not disclosed the details of the exact time and places for the maneuvers of these drills.

Comment

These naval exercises were conducted after United States (US) President Barack Obama and leaders of other Asian Countries bordering SCS had recently voiced their concerns and pressurised China over its giant land reclamation projects in disputed waters of SCS during the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit held in Manila, Philippines.

China is claiming its territorial sovereignty over the entire SCS including the adjacent waters of its Asian neighbours including Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan which in turn is harming the regional peace and stability.

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China condemns US warship’s passage near disputed islands in South China Sea

China has strongly condemned US warship’s passage near disputed artificial islands in the South China Sea spiraling tensions between both nations.

On 22 October 2015, guided missile destroyer USS Lassen had entered the 12-nautical mile zone claimed by China around Zhubi reefs in the Spratly archipelago in South China Sea.

China is claiming its full sovereignty over these disputed islands and its adjacent waters in South China Sea.

  • China’s Argument: Patrolling and non-permitted entry of US Ship in Spratly archipelago has threatened its sovereignty and security interests and also harmed the regional peace and stability.
  • US Argument: The warship has entered in this region as it is having right of freedom of navigation in international waters and does not require any prior permission.

It is said that the US warship had undertaken this patrolling operation as part of its Freedom of Navigation programme aimed at challenging China’s claims over the artificial islands created in this disputed waters.

Background of Disputes in South China Sea

  • Disputes in South China Sea is fight mainly between China, Philippines, Vietnam over the  territory and sovereignty of Spratly and Parcels islands in South China Sea along with other atolls, reefs and rocky outcrops.
  • Importance of these islands: They are strategically located in South China Sea which is major international shipping route as world’s half merchant ships passes through it.
  • They are also having reserves of natural resources around them including petroleum.
  • China’s claim: It is saying that major portion of these islands belong to them as part of the historical events and area defined by Nine Dash Line.
  • Under its claim, China already has started and even completed building artificial islands and even strategic runways for mobilising its airforce from these islands.
  • India’s position: Explicitly supports and believes in international laws and arbitration process for resolving the disputes for regional stability.

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