Vietnam cannot find support in dispute with China

China and Vietnam, among others, claim the South China Sea.
By Ed Adamczyk  |  May 12, 2014 at 10:16 AM
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HANOI , Vietnam, May 12 (UPI) -- The territorial dispute between China and Vietnam was not addressed at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference in Myanmar, leaving Vietnam without allies in the argument.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung referred to last week's provocations -- in which China attempted to erect an oil rig in waters of the South China Sea, whose islands are claimed by at least five nations -- as "dangerous and serious violations."

The lack of support of Vietnam's position at the 10-nation summit meeting, which makes decisions by consensus, could be seen as a win for China and indication territorial questions will not be handled collectively.

The area of the South China Sea in dispute is a major shipping lane, and potentially has underground oil reserves. Although China's claims are over 1,000 miles from its mainland, the Association, known as Asean, has been unable in recent years to find a solution to the competing claims. A final statement from the meeting mentioned "serious concerns over the ongoing developments in the South China Sea," but did not offer a compromise or even mention China by name.

Vietnam and the Philippines, another critic of Chinese maritime policy, "clearly wanted something a lot stronger," said Murray Hiebert of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Within Asean, you have countries that really don't want to rock the boat."

A demonstration of several hundred people outside the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi was conducted peacefully Sunday, with Vietnam's government permitting state-run news media journalists to cover the event. "Denounce the Chinese Invasion" was a prominent protest slogan.

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