China aims to occupy entire East Sea: int’l analyst

VietNamNet Bridge – The Chinese proposal to conduct negotiations to settle tensions in the East Sea in a peaceful way is only a ruse for its real intentions, according to Dr Marvin C. Ott, an international prestigious analyst, and former analyst at the CIA.

east sea, china, u-shaped line

Hanoians demonstrate against China's illegal oil rig.

The Chinese have been nurturing an ambitious plan to occupy the entire East Sea, turning the nine-dotted line (Đường lưỡi bò, in Vietnamese, which means "cow tongue line") around the dispute territory into reality and grabbing the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam and other countries. (The nine-dotted line is the demarcation line used by the governments of both the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) for their island claims of part of the South China Sea.)

In an interview given to VietNamNet, the US analyst stressed that what has happened in recent days in the East Sea is quite predictable. China’s determination to control the lands and waters in the East Sea has been clear to everyone.

China has been reinforcing its navy and air force capability in recent years in an attempt to expand its influence and control over the East Sea. It has been carrying out many activities to implement its ambitious plan. The latest one was the dispute with the Philippines at Scarborough Shoal.

The deployment of the oil rig in the Vietnamese exclusive economic zone seems to be different from the way China did with the Philippines, but it is actually of the same type.  

Firing high-power water cannons and hitting Vietnamese ships proved to be the favorite trickery Chinese like to use because it is very effective. The Chinese seem to avoid the use of fire and military weapons when trying to expand their control in the East Sea.

However, in South East Asia, Vietnam understands China better than any other country. And it is not easy to be trapped by them.

Dr. Marvin believes that Vietnam has been responding to the Chinese provocative activities wisely. There is a big gap between China and Vietnam in military strength. If Vietnam sent navy ships to the site to force Chinese ships to retreat, and if fire broke out, the situation would turn bad for Vietnam. And Vietnam did not do this.

What Vietnam has done is bring the case to the international community, drawing the world’s attention to China’s provocative acts in the East Sea.

What Vietnam can also do, according to the US analyst, is consult with other South Asian countries which also claim to have sovereignty in the East Sea, namely the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Vietnam and the countries could reach a consensus on joining forces to look for solutions to settle disputes in the region. If so, they could create a common front when confronting China.

“Divide and rule” is a part of Chinese tactics. They want to settle disputes with Vietnam separately, then with the Philippines and later with Malaysia. China does not want to deal with a bloc of united South East Asian countries which have a common voice.

The Philippines has made a wise move to bring the case of China’s statement about the “cow tongue line” to the international court. All international lawyers believe that the Philippines will win the lawsuit, though it will have to wait several years. If this comes true, China’s “invented” nine-dotted line will be officially judged as illegal.

The decision of the Philippines to sue China in the international court will be beneficial to all countries in the region. China, which understands well that its claim about the “U-shaped (nine-dotted/cow’s tongue) line” does not have any legal foundation, has shown its hostile attitude to the Filipino action, trying to stop the lawsuit.

China, after taking a series of unilateral provocative activities in the East Sea, has unexpectedly “lowered its voice”, suggesting that it would settle the dispute through negotiations.

Dr. Marvin commented that this is just another artful behavior conducted by China. The country in 2011 once signed a document, calling to settle the disputes peacefully. At that time, many scholars doubted if China would fulfill its commitments. And what is happening now shows that they had reasons to be worried.

All the Chinese acts and trickeries, in the US analyst’s opinion, have one goal – turning the U-shaped line into reality – which would allow it to occupy nearly the whole East Sea, and encroach on the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam and other regional countries. China has been attempting to turn the cow tongue line into the territory’s boundary that would be recognized in the world.

However, China cannot implement its plan at once. In order to avoid strong protests from the international community, China tries to be “soft” after every activity that seeks to expand its control in the East Sea, such as the Scarborough Shoal and the HD 981 drilling rig. This is called being “an iron fist in a velvet glove” by some people.

China should understand that the international community has lost faith in China, which has conducted activities in an attempt to expand its de facto occupation and control. All the regional countries have become watchful of China, while its good relations and cooperation programs built up in the last many years have been spoiled within a short time.

Minh Ngoc

east sea, china, u-shaped line