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SOUTH CHINA SEA SITUATION GETS COMPLICATED AND TENSE
Grave concern has been caused to countries in and outside the region by China’s vigorous militarization of structures in the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos in the South China Sea over the past six months. Due to its location, Vietnam is the first to face threats. Counter moves by a number of other countries have rendered the situation more complicated and tense.
On 18 May 2018, for the first time, a Chinese H.6K bomber landed on Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago, a structure under Vietnamese sovereignty which China occupied by armed force in 1956. This type of aircraft has an operational range of around 5,600 km. Meanwhile, the Fiery Cross Reef, which China seized in 1988 is only 482 km from the Vietnamese coast in Phan Rang, and the Mischief Reef which China occupied in 1995 is only 209 km from Palawan of the Philippines. 
China has also deployed Y-12B anti-ship missiles, with a firing range of 540 km, and HQ-9B surface-to-air missiles, with a firing range of 200 km, on a number of structures in the Spratly archipelago, which it occupied by armed force in 1988 and 1995, and where it has conducted intensiveland reclamation, expansion and construction over recent years. 
(Between January and June 2015, the total expanded acreage in 7 structures, namely Fiery Cross, Cuarteron, Gaven, Subi, Hughes, Mischief and Johnson South, amounted to nearly 1,200 ha, or 200 ha per month. “In 20 months, China had reclaimed 17 times more of land than the other claimants over the past 40 years, accounting for approximately 95% of all reclaimed in the Spratlys,”Reuters reported on 21 August 2015. “Construction on islands and reefs in the South China Sea has seen steady progress,” General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping said on 18 October 2017 in his Political Report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC).
In newly reclaimed and expanded areas in Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs, air fields have been constructed, with runways ranging from 2,600 to 3,120 meters. Deep-sea harbors, barracks, logistical installations and radar stations have also been built on a large scale.
The weapons and military facilities deployed by China are capable of attack and control over a vast area in the South China Sea and the vicinity, posing a threat to peace and stability in the region as well as to security, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, escorted by law enforcement vessels, numerous Chinese fishing boats have intruded into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, poaching and menacing, even attacking Vietnamese fishermen operating in their traditional fishing fields. (In April 2018, there were three intrusions involving dozens of Chinese ships, in one case they were caught poaching only 30 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast at Đà Nẵng).
Against such a backdrop, on 5 June 2018, two US nuclear-capable B-52 bombers flew about 30 km from Spratly islands. This came three days after US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, called China out over its militarization of South China Sea islands, criticizing it for "intimidation and coercion" in the Indo-Pacific.
On 27 May 2018, two US guided-missile warships – the cruiser USS Antietam and the destroyer USS Higgins – sailed within 12 nautical miles of Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the Paracel archipelago. According to Reuters, the operation was an “attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters”.
The French and British navies are also planning to send ships and naval aircraft to the South China Sea.
The United States, Japan, India and Australia have recently revived their Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with a view to coping with Chinese moves.
Developments in the South China Sea, as mentioned above, not only threaten the sovereignty, peace and security of a number of South East Asian countries, but are also linked to the interests of peace, stability and development of many countries in and outside the region. The solidarity and joint efforts of the world community are thus required, for the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, with respect for fundamental principles of international law.
Your attention is highly expected, in contribution to preventing the danger of military confrontation and preserving peace and security in the region and the world over. 

The Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation
 

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