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World experts gather in Vietnam for South China Sea issues following recent tensions

Updated at Monday, 18 Mar 2019, 12:54
The Hanoitimes - The experts raised concerns about the recently escalating tensions in the sea which China claims the majority.
More than 80 representatives from 27 members and organizations of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) have discussed maritime security in the South China Sea following the region’s escalating tensions caused by claimants China and the Philippines. 

International experts reviewed maritime security situation and outlined initiatives for the next event at the ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-Sessional Meeting on Maritime Security (ARF ISM on MS) which took place in Vietnam’s central coastal city of Danang on March 14-15, Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said in a statement. 

Earlier on March 12-13, ARF Workshop on Enhancing Regional Maritime Law Enforcement Cooperation was held with up-to-date reports on the sea and concerns by the international experts. 

The participants discussed regional maritime security situation, including cooperation results, unexpected challenges, the efficiency of current relevant mechanisms, sharing information on maritime security-related guidelines, mechanism, policies, and solutions applied at national and regional levels. 

The delegates debated and approved new initiatives, and added them into the ARF plan of actions in the 2019-2020 period.
International experts at the event in Danang. Photo: MOFA
International experts at the event in Danang. Photo: MOFA
Established in 1994, the ARF aims to promote dialogue and cooperation among member countries in politics-security, thus contributing to peace, stability and trust-building process in the region. Currently, the forum has 27 members. Vietnam, Australia, and the EU are co-chairs of the ARF ISM-MS in the 2019-2020 period.

Recent moves 

Recently, Beijing has snatched another patch of the South China Sea, with its “militia” seizing control of a string of sandbars and denying fishermen access, AFP reported. 

 
Part of Thitu Island. Photo: AFP
Part of Thitu Island. Photo: AP
This time is Thitu Island, which is within Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago and now administered by the Philippines. It’s a prosperous fishing spot and another potential territorial marker in the South China Sea. 

Now, China has physically staked its claim over the sandbars that surround it. Filipino fishermen say they are being driven away from their traditional fishing grounds by Chinese boats.

The waters between Thitu Island and Subi Reef, both of which are near the northwestern Philippines, have long been claimed as part of its territorial waters.

But, since 2015, China simply took over Subi Reef and used land-reclamation engineering to turn it into an enormous naval and air force fortress.

Now China’s fishing fleet and military-controlled coast guard have begun swarming around Thitu Island, many Filipinos are becoming restless.
 
Following Beijing’s increasing approach to the island, the US Pacific Airforce sent four B-52 bombers to the South China Sea within 10 days, on March 4 and 14, saying it was part of routine missions and US aircraft regularly operate in the South China Sea in support of allies, partners, and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The US secretary of state earlier this month committed Washington to aiding the Philippines in the event of an “armed attack” on its vessels or aircraft in the disputed South China Sea, in what some see as a warning shot to China.

Hanoi said that it supported the free maritime and air navigation in the South China Sea and called for restraint from participants – Beijing and Manila. 
Linh Pham
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