HANOI Aug 1 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
coastguard 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 defence, 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.
That led to rare protests, rioting and arson in Vietnam
aimed at Chinese factories, although Taiwan facilities were
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 Defence.
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
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.
(Additional reporting by Nguyen Ha Minh in Hanoi and Nobuhiro
Kubo in Tokyo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)