What’s Behind Vietnam’s More Vocal Stance Against China?



Vietnam sounded off twice last week against China over a long-festering maritime sovereignty dispute, after months of silence. But analysts expect to see angry phases like this one alternate more often with silent ones.

The foreign ministry in Vietnam said on April 24 China violated Vietnamese sovereignty by installing military jamming equipment in the disputed sea’s Paracel Islands. The equipment could disrupt Vietnamese flights and its own military activity, said Carl Thayer, Southeast Asia-specialized emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

The State-run oil firm PetroVietnam said the same day tension in the South China Sea would hamper offshore exploration for fuel under the ocean floor. Pressure from China has spiked two exploration efforts since mid-2017, analysts say. A Vietnamese driller is now planning a $4.6 billion natural gas exploration project with ExxonMobil.

But Vietnam had said little against China over the past seven months, even during China’s high-profile naval exercises in March and when China rapped a visit to Vietnam by a U.S. aircraft carrier. It increasingly values economic ties with China and looks to political channels for solving disputes, analysts say.