Posted on November 6, 2015 By Jonathan London and Vu Quang Viet Headline, Politics, VietnamVietnam Must Reassess South China Sea Strategy
Vietnam People’s navy BPS-500 class antisubmarine warfare corvette HQ-381. Source: Wikimedia, used under a creative commons license.
Look for allies, seek clarification from Beijng
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hanoi this week comes at a time when Beijing’s efforts to change the status quo in the South China Sea through the construction of manmade islands has raised tensions across the region.
Only Beijing sees the “nine-dash line” it uses to advance its claim to 90 percent of the entire South China Sea as legitimate. Yet, if anything, tensions in the region appear to be on the rise. Be that as it may, the commencement of US patrols aimed at demonstrating the right of ships to travel anywhere in the South China Sea that international law permits, together with an arbitral tribunal’s finding that it has jurisdiction to rule on many of China’s claims, invites all parties, including Vietnam to reassess the broader conflict and attendant opportunities and risks.
The China-based scholar David Arase has recently observed that smaller states such as Vietnam and the Philippines can increase their leverage in the dispute through greater cooperation with each other, greater willingness to exercise legal means in concert to defend international norms, and recognition that selective cooperation and non-cooperation can influence regional politics. Within the context of a big power stalemate, Arase argues, smaller states can propose cooperative governance schemes that preserve their own rights and promote their interests while also generating benefits for big powers. In light of recent developments, including China’s conduct and Vietnam’s improving relations with the United States and other powers, Hanoi should consider taking a more proactive approach.