Japan Gives Vessels to Vietnam to Boost Maritime Security; A threat to the Philippines for another Viet invasion to Spratly?

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida attends a media briefing with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh after their meeting at the Government Guesthouse in Hanoi, August 1, 2014.- Reuters

Japan offers vessels to Vietnam to boost its sea strength

HANOI - Japan will give six navy boats to Vietnam to boost its patrols and surveillance in the South China Sea, Japan's foreign minister said on Friday, in the latest sign of a strengthening of alliances between states locked in maritime rows with China.

The used vessels, worth 500 million yen ($4.86 million), would be accompanied by training and equipment to help the coast guard and fisheries surveillance effort, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said after talks with Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh.

The deal represents a notable shift in the two countries' close diplomatic and investment ties towards defense, a move likely to irk an increasingly assertive China that is pressing hard on claims to nine-tenths of the potentially energy-rich sea, and worrying much of the region.

"International security is getting more complicated... prosperity only comes with stability in the South China Sea and the East China Sea," Kishada told a news conference in Hanoi.

"I hope this equipment will strengthen the ability of Vietnam's coastal enforcement authorities."

Vietnam enjoys tight business ties with Japan, its biggest investor, but relations with Hanoi's largest trade partner, China, are at their worst in three decades and analysts believe that has sharpened the debate within Vietnam's secretive Communist Party over long-term foreign policy strategy.

Beijing's May 2 deployment of a drilling rig in waters Vietnam claims as its exclusive economic zone lit the fuse on simmering anti-China sentiment in Vietnam, worsened by accusations that the southeast Asian country's fishing boats were deliberately rammed by Chinese vessels.

Live-fire drills

That led to rare protests, rioting and arson in Vietnam aimed at Chinese factories, although Taiwan facilities were worst hit.

The rig was moved out of contested waters on July 16, a month before schedule, but it remains unclear if the two countries struck a deal behind the scenes. China said the rig was shifted because its mission had been completed.

China is not showing any sign of easing off on its maritime push. It will hold live-fire drills for five days from Tuesday off its coast in the East China Sea opposite Japan and in the Gulf of Tonkin, which borders both China and Vietnam, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

The Japanese support for Vietnam will include radar equipment and the vessels are to be handed over by year end, according to a Japanese government source in Tokyo, who requested anonymity.

Japan's already fragile ties with China have soured over their competing claims to a string of uninhabited East China Sea islets that Beijing calls Diaoyu and Tokyo refers to as Senkaku.

China also has overlapping South China Sea claims with Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, to which Vietnam has recently cosied up, and says may follow in pursuing international legal action against China.

Soldiers from both countries drank beer and played soccer during a party on an island in the disputed Spratly archipelago in June, in what was widely seen as a provocative show of unity.

1975 Vietnam Invasion of Pugad Island of the Philippines with Prostitutes ( Southwest Cay invasion )

Southwest Cay, known as Pugad island in the Philippines, as (南子岛) Nanzi Dao in China and as Đảo Song Tử Tây in Vietnam, is an island in the Spratly group. It was occupied by Philippine forces up to 1975, when South Vietnam forces were able to invade the island.

Southwest Cay is in the northern edge of the Spratly group. It is within North Danger Reef which also contains the Philippine-occupied Northeast Cay (Parola Island), Vietnamese-occupied South Reef and unoccupied North Reef. Southwest Cay and Northeast Cay are just 1.75 miles (2.82 km) away from each other. Each island can actually see the other within their respective horizons.

The invasion took place when all the Philippine soldiers guarding the island of Pugad left to attend to the birthday party of their commanding officer who is based on nearby Parola Island. The storm that day is also believed to have persuaded all the soldiers to regroup temporarily on Parola island. A report also came out saying that South Vietnamese officials managed to send Vietnamese prostitutes to the birthday party to lure the Filipino soldiers guarding Pugad Island. It was said to be a "present" to the Philippine commander for his birthday and as a move of South Vietnamese forces to befriend all Filipino soldiers guarding the Spratlys. Philippine soldiers did not expect that South Vietnam would resort to foul play since both Philippines and South Vietnam, together with the United States, were allies in the Vietnam War. This tactic is believed to be the reason why South Vietnamese forces knew that the Filipino soldiers left the island, an action that is usually kept confidential.

After the party and after the weather cleared out, the returning soldiers were surprised that there was a company of South Vietnamese soldiers on the island. The South Vietnamese flag replaced the Philippine flag flying in the pole created by Philippine soldiers themselves. The soldiers returned to Parola immediately for fear that Parola would be the next target. After higher-ups of the Philippines were informed about the situation, they instructed the troops based in Parola and Pagasa to stay on red alert status. The following morning, the only thing the Filipino soldiers could do in Parola was to "curse" while South Vietnamese sang their national anthem. Under the Government of former president  Ferdinand Marcos - Malacañang officials, who did not want to compromise the alliance while the Vietnam War was still being fought, decided to remain silent.

A few months later, the recently formed unified Vietnam (after North Vietnam successfully invaded South Vietnam) decided to remove all remaining South Vietnamese troops in the Spratlys and establish military control among the features. It was reported that dozens of South Vietnamese soldiers in Pugad Island swam all the way to Parola just to avoid being captured by North Vietnamese forces. It was then when Malacañang officials, headed by President Ferdinand Marcos, discussed how the Philippines could reclaim the island. It had been apparent that most of the officials (who treat the communists as a threat to the Philippine national security) want to attack Pugad to reclaim it. However, after an intelligence report came stating that the unified Vietnam had already built a huge concrete garrison within a few weeks, the officials dropped the plan and tried to resolve the issue diplomatically. However, this approach eventually died along the process making Pugad a Vietnamese-occupied island up to this day. This incident was confirmed in interviews with soldiers involved in an episode of the defunct Magandang Gabi Bayan (Eng.: Good Evening Nation) (MGB) of ABS-CBN. - Reuters, ABS-CBN, GMA

 
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