Viet­nam dredg­ing on Chi­nese reef it oc­cu­pies

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By MO JINGXI mo­jingxi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Viet­nam is dredg­ing a new chan­nel on a Chi­nese reef in the South China Sea, putting at risk the re­cent re­lax­ation of re­gional ten­sion after the Philip­pines agreed with China to solve mar­itime is­sues peace­fully.

The move shows that Hanoi is rac­ing against time to con­sol­i­date its po­si­tion in the South China Sea be­fore an ex­pected ac­cord is reached on the re­gional code of con­duct next year and while Wash­ing­ton’s Asia poli­cies un­der the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion of pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump re­main un­clear, Chi­nese ob­servers said.

A satel­lite im­age taken on Nov 30 showed Viet­nam had be­gun dredg­ing on Riji Reef in the sea, and sev­eral ves­sels can be seen in a newly dug chan­nel be­tween the la­goon and open sea, Reuters re­ported on Fri­day. The dredg­ing could be pre­lim­i­nary work on more com­pre­hen­sive con­struc­tion.

The reef is one of the 29 Chi­nese reefs in the South China Sea that Viet­nam has il­le­gally oc­cu­pied, and it has con­ducted con­struc­tion and recla­ma­tion work on more than 20 of them since the 1980s. Since Au­gust, Viet­nam has stepped up ef­forts to for­tify sev­eral reefs with mo­bile rocket launch­ers, an im­proved run- way and new hangars, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports.

On Fri­day, For­eign Min­istry spokesman Lu Kang reaf­firmed China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea and urged all par­ties con­cerned not to take any ac­tion that might com­pli­cate the sit­u­a­tion.

“We call for them to meet China half­way and jointly safe­guard re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity,” Lu said at a reg­u­lar news con­fer­ence in Bei­jing.

The Philip­pines, Viet­nam, Malaysia and Brunei make over­lap­ping claims over parts of the South China Sea.

A ma­jor row this year, caused by Philip­pines’ uni­lat­eral ar­bi­tra­tion case against China, was peace­fully re­solved after Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s visit to China.

Ac­cord­ing to Jia Duqiang, a se­nior South­east Asian stud­ies re­searcher at the Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sci­ences, “Hanoi is try­ing to max­i­mize its ac­quired in­ter­ests be­fore a pos­si­ble agree­ment on the code of con­duct by claimants in the South China Sea dis­putes next year.”

A frame­work of the Code of Con­duct in the South China Sea is ex­pected to be com­pleted be­fore next year’s ASEAN For­eign Min­is­ters’ Meet­ing in July. Li Guo­qiang, deputy head of the Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sci­ences’ In­sti­tute of Chi­nese Bor­der­land Stud­ies, said Viet­nam has never stopped its con­struc­tion on the reefs be­gin­ning with its il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion.

“Now it is just con­tin­u­ing that work by mak­ing use of the re­lax­ation of ten­sion in the re­gion, now that the Philip­pines has agreed to solve dis­putes with China through di­rect talks and the United States’ pol­icy after Don­ald Trump takes of­fice is still un­clear,” he said.

The cen­tral lead­er­ship has called for in­creased ef­forts to re­in­force na­tional se­cu­rity.

A guide­line on step­ping up na­tional se­cu­rity work was adopted at a meet­ing of the Po­lit­i­cal Bureau of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China on Fri­day.

The meet­ing called for en­hanced ca­pac­ity build­ing on na­tional se­cu­rity and im­prove­ment of na­tional se­cu­rity work on all fronts to safe­guard na­tional sovereignty and se­cu­rity as well as to pro­tect the in­ter­ests of the na­tion's growth.

At present, China has main-

PLANET LABS / HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

Sand can be seen spilling from a newly dredged chan­nel in this view of a Viet­namese-oc­cu­pied Chi­nese reef in the South China Sea on Nov 30.

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