May 15, 2014
As the war/civil unrest cycle continues to march forward, there appear to be two main geopolitical tinderboxes percolating at the moment. While we all know about Ukraine/Russia, which will only get worse in the months ahead, the South China Sea looks like it may be about to burst out into overt conflict.
Yesterday, I noticed a post on Zerohedge about how China had moved an oil rig into Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which was an obvious provocation accompanied by 86 Chinese vessels. They note:
With the additional deployment of a submarine and a missile ship, there are now 86 Chinese vessels accompanying the oil rig’s installation in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Local news reports that 3 Chinese military ships are surrounding a Vietnamese marine police vessel this morning and water cannon use continues against Vietnamese ships. We addressed the who, what, where, when and how of China’s HD-981 oil rig foray into Vietnamese waters here but, as we discuss below, the enduring question, as with many of China’s recently provocative actions in the Asia-Pacific, remains why?
So what really interests me at this point are the massive riots that broke out last night in southern Vietnam in response. The mob irrationally damaged mostly Taiwanese factories, but the focus of the ire was clear: China.
Reuters reports that:
(Reuters) – Thousands of Vietnamese set fire to foreign factories and rampaged in industrial zones in the south of the country in an angry reaction to Chinese oil drilling in a part of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam, officials said on Wednesday.
The brunt of Tuesday’s violence, one of the worst breakdowns in Sino-Vietnamese relations since the neighbors fought a brief border war in 1979,appears to have been borne by Taiwanese firms in the zones in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces that were mistaken for Chinese-owned companies.
Photographs posted on social media sites and blogs, purportedly of the aftermath of the violence, showed blackened shipping containers, smashed windows and several burnt out vehicles that had been overturned.
“I fear a dark chapter in Sino-Vietnamese relations is now being written,” said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
“And because China wants to keep that oil rig in place into August, these protests could just be the first pages.”
Tran Van Nam, vice chairman of the Binh Duong People’s Committee, said around 6,000 workers initially held peaceful protests on Tuesday, but order broke down when numbers swelled to about 20,000. Gates were smashed and rioters set 15 factories on fire, he said.
Storey said the Vietnamese government would now be under increasing pressure to respond, which could risk a military clash at sea with China that Vietnam could not win.
Dozens of ships from both countries are around the oil rig, and the two sides have accused each other of intentional collisions, increasing the risk of open confrontation.
Anti-China sentiment was also on the rise in Manila, as the Philippine government accused Beijing of reclaiming land on a reef in disputed islands in another part of sea, apparently to build an airstrip.
The main problem with this new cycle of war/civil unrest, is that it is only just beginning.
Full article here.
This article was posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 5:08 am