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Vietnam Expands Maritime Presence Amid South China Sea Tension

Vietnam has deployed a maritime militia unit off the country’s southern coast to bolster its naval presence amid growing tension in the South China Sea. The unit consists of nine ships and platoons equipped with light weapons for paramilitary operations.

The Vietnam Defense Ministry said the new maritime force has been established to “jointly protect the sovereignty of the sea and the islands” by safeguarding fishing activities and conducting routine patrols within the country’s maritime territories.

Forming a maritime militia off the country’s southern coast also helps in expanding oil and gas exploration and transportation in the area, according to a Nikkei Asia report.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s 9th Military Region Deputy Commander, Major Gen. Truong Minh Khai, has called on the local military command to immediately provide staff, more facilities, and intensive training for the newly-established unit.

In April, the Asian country also deployed a 131-man squadron to conduct maritime patrols in Ba Ria Vung Tau Province.

South China Sea Tensions

Vietnam is among the nations that claim part or all of the potentially resource-rich Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea. It has been very vocal in registering its claims over the highly-disputed maritime area. China, however, continues to anchor its claims on the so-called “nine-dash line.”

In 2019, a Vietnamese official publicly issued threats to initiate international legal proceedings against China. Deputy Foreign Minister Le Hoai Trung said Hanoi would look to arbitration and litigation if negotiations with China do not lead to a resolution.

“The UN Charter and [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] 1982 have sufficient mechanisms for us to apply those measures,” the official remarked.

Last year, a boat sinking incident involving a Vietnamese fishing boat and an alleged Chinese maritime surveillance vessel was recorded. The Vietnamese boat, on which eight fishermen were onboard, was reportedly rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel.

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