US, Vietnam Begin Naval Drills

Sea exercises proceed despite objections from Beijing.

The USS Chung Hoon (background), a U.S. guided missile destroyer, anchored at Tien Sa port in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang, July 15, 2011.

Vietnam and the United States kicked off joint naval exercises on Friday in spite of disapproval from China amid tensions over sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

The joint drills between the two former enemies were scheduled to last a week, and include a slew of activities like navigation and maintenance exercises, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City said in a statement that the events would comprise "noncombatant" activities.

Vietnam and China, as well as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan, have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits and home to shipping lanes vital to global trade.

The Philippines and Vietnam have said they are alarmed by increasingly aggressive actions by China in the disputed waters, causing speculation that they would turn to Washington for support.

Earlier this week, Vietnam accused sailors from China's navy of beating the captain of a Vietnamese fishing boat and confiscating its catch.

The incident took place northeast of the potentially oil-rich Paracel Islands, according to the Vietnamese coast guard service.

China and Vietnam say they have sovereignty over the Paracels while another set of islands, the Spratlys, are also claimed by the two nations as well as by the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia.

Timing questioned

China's top military officer Gen. Chen Bingde had said that the timing the U.S.-Vietnam joint naval exercises was "inappropriate."

Chen's comments came during talks with his U.S. counterpart, Admiral Mike Mullen, which were aimed at rebuilding trust following years of strained ties between the U.S. and Chinese militaries.

China and Vietnam have recently moved to calm tensions over the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, agreeing to hold talks and ruling out a military confrontation.

However, Vietnam has welcomed foreign involvement to resolve the rival claims.

American and Vietnamese officials have called for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, which encompasses an area from the Singapore and Malacca straits to the Strait of Taiwan.

In June, Beijing and Hanoi agreed "to prevent words and actions that would be detrimental to the friendship and mutual trust between the peoples of the two countries," China's foreign ministry said.

Vietnam and China have held separate live-fire military exercises in the area after Hanoi accused Chinese ships of ramming one oil survey ship and cutting the exploration cables of another.

The standoff sparked a wave of anti-China protests in Vietnam and warnings from Beijing to Vietnam not to try to involve the United States.

Reported by Luisetta Mudie.


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Jul 17, 2011 02:34 PM

The US was content to stay out of the Spratly and Paracel territorial disputes until expansive new PRC claims to all of the new islands began to be aggressively enforced by a much enlarged PLA navy. Moreover, the PRC line that it would only negotiate territorial disputes one nation at a time came to be seen as a road towards a power grab by a big nation and large military over its smaller neighbors.

Jul 21, 2011 04:42 AM

Someone needs to control China and it may as well the US. China hungers for energy and will not stop at anything to get even if it means stealing.

Jul 16, 2011 12:26 PM

welcome USA in south China sea

Aug 13, 2011 01:15 AM

The us navy need send more ship to the region to calm chinese hunger for energy,they will do evrthing to get what they Want,the us much step in and say,hey.this is enough,let the united nation investigation throught the history of the islands,and the u.n will anoun it to the world ,who is the right full owner is....I think the u.s need to step up now , befor china take it over by force.this is every body can see that with the chinese build up the navy quickly,and they also build the ship ' rockets,to quick detroy the us navy ship , if the war explosed ,and oh,I think it is gonna happen in the matter of time .

Jul 19, 2011 12:57 AM

Now US becomming the bodygard Vietnam
Later will became the slave of Vietnam
This is not stange for the losser asking for life from the winner.....
China don't make any interest with US
US Can't event fight Vietnam how come showing face to China??? Ha...
Come on Cambodia on your side 100%
And to give the lesson to Vietnam how pain is it and then will know how Cambodia pain too.

Jul 19, 2011 09:27 AM

Hello US. Welcome to stay.

Jul 15, 2011 01:11 PM

The last thing this world need is more conflicts. the US should stay the hell out of it.