South China Sea: War fears surge with Vietnam support centre of US-Beijing battle

South China Sea: Philippines ‘keeping options open’ says expert

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However, both Washington and Beijing have been left frustrated in their attempts to recruit Hanoi as an ally, as the Vietnamese government is determined to pursue its long-held policy of ‘non-alignment’. Writing for the website, Jamie Seidel argues that the US and China are locked in a battle to recruit Vietnam to their cause. Both super-powers see the support of Hanoi as being critical in their ability to secure control over the South China Sea.

To that effect, Washington has in recent months launched an intense diplomatic campaign, sending its national security advisor and secretary of state to visit Hanoi.

Moreover, the US has sought to boost military ties with its former enemy, inviting Hanoi to participate twice in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) wargames.

Despite these concerted efforts, Hanoi shows no inclination of entering a formal pact with Washington against Beijing.

This is because Vietnam has consistently resolved to never align itself with one great power against another, ever since the Soviet Union abandoned it in 1986 to improve relations with China.

Mr Seidel explains: “Vietnam formalised that attitude in 1998 when it embraced a policy of ‘three noes’: no military alliances, no aligning with one country against another and no foreign military bases on Vietnamese soil.”

Relations between China and Vietnam have increasingly deteriorated due to Beijing’s aggressive actions towards its neighbour.

In April last year, a Chinese coast guard vessel sank a Vietnamese fishing boat near the contested Paracel Islands.

A Chinese survey drilling ship was also sent into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

Furthermore, Beijing self-decreed new administrative areas over fishing grounds Hanoi considers its own.

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China has long claimed sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, saying that the entire waterway up to the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan belongs to it.

Beijing’s claim is based on the U-shaped nine-dash line etched onto a map in the 1940s by a Chinese geographer.

In 2016, an international court of arbitration dismissed China’s territorial claims.

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