Vietnam, Philippines to forge strategic alliance in face of aggressive China

10/02/2015


Since the end of the Cold War, relations between the two countries have warmed significantly. Vietnam is sometimes referred to as the only communist military ally of the Philippines. The Philippines and Vietnam have territorial disputes over the Spratly Islands, among with Brunei, China, Malaysia, and Taiwan. The Philippines and Vietnam both disapprove of China's nine-dash map which China uses as justification of its claim in the South China Sea. Both countries were also committed to a multilateral diplomatic approach to the resolution of disputes in the South China Sea with the UNCLOS taken to account.
The Philippines and Vietnam have been the most outspoken countries in the region in criticising China's efforts to claim virtually all of the South China Sea, which contains major sea lanes and fishing grounds and is believed to hold vast mineral resources. Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have conflicting claims to the waters. The Philippines and Vietnam have in recent years accused China of increasingly flexing its military muscle in the region. This has included the deployment of a Chinese oil rig to the north of the Spratlys which raised tensions with Vietnam last year.
Vietnam has formally supported the Philippines in its arbitration case against China regarding China's nine-dash claim over the South China Sea. The Vietnamese government’s decision to support the legal case initiated by the Philippines to contest China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea is a sign of the growing geo-political tensions. Relatively low-key maritime disputes, which have festered for decades, have become dangerous potential flashpoints as the US has encouraged countries like Vietnam and the Philippines to challenge China.
Hanoi submitted its legal brief to the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague on December 11th in 2014. As part of the Philippines case filed on March 30th, 2014, Vietnam is requesting the court rule that Manila’s maritime claims are part of its continental shelf and within its 370 kilometre exclusive economic zone. Such a decision would cut across the basis of China’s claims in the South China Sea which depend in part on “historical rights.” The Vietnamese position paper offered support for the Philippines case, rejected China’s “nine dash” map that sets out its maritime claims and requested that the arbitration panel take into consideration Vietnam’s interests in the South China Sea, which Hanoi refers to as the East Sea.
The Philippine Foreign Ministry immediately expressed its delight at the unexpected change in Vietnam’s stance, declaring it was “helpful in promoting the rule of law and … peace and stability in our region.”
The Philippines and Vietnam are natural allies in their common struggle against China’s drive for hegemony in East Asia. Already partners in ASEAN, the two are likely to be driven closer together by Beijing’s increasingly brazen displays of power as it enforces its claim to some 80 percent of the South China Sea. The Philippines and Vietnam share convergent views and concerns over Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. This has led to intense diplomatic interaction and some coordination in multilateral institutions, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The recent meeting between Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung saw "productive discussions" over establishing a bilateral strategic partnership, marking a critical step towards deepening economic and political cooperation between the two countries. Finally, they have decided to move from semi-passive neighborly relations to institutionalized strategic cooperation, especially in the realm of maritime security and regional stability. China's recent decision to unilaterally dispatch a giant oil rig to Vietnam's 200-nautical-miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which led to a nail biting showdown between Vietnamese and Chinese naval forces and massive anti-China protests in Hanoi, has changed the complexion of regional diplomatic calculations. Even the ASEAN couldn't hide its panic in the recently-concluded summit in Myanmar. So Vietnam has decided to move closer to the Philippines' position, with Hanoi now also threatening to file a similar legal complaint against China.
In light of the intensifying territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Vietnam and Philippines seem to become perfect partners and alliance. As influential members of the ASEAN, the two countries have been concerned with the lack of a unified regional response to China's growing assertiveness in the Western Pacific. Despite a decade-long agreement on developing a robust maritime conflict-prevention mechanism, the ASEAN has yet to finalize a legally-binding Code of Conduct (CoC) with China. So greater diplomatic coordination and strategic engagement between the two countries has become indispensable to establishing greater synergy within the ASEAN. The two countries can no longer afford to simply chart their own independent paths, since maximum coordination has become a strategic imperative.
Together, the two countries also hope to bring other claimant states such as Malaysia on board. So far, Malaysia has agreed to participate in trilateral dialogues with Vietnam and the Philippines to forge a common approach to the South China Sea disputes. The ASEAN's informal leader, Indonesia, has also moved closer to Vietnam and the Philippines. In recent months, Jakarta has openly criticized China's notorious "nine-dash-line" doctrine as a quasi-legalistic claim with no basis in international law, while finalizing a new border agreement with Manila, ending two decades of territorial squabbles.
The budding cooperation between Vietnam and the Philippines is the latest development stemming from China’s aggressive territorial claims in the region. The Philippines and Vietnam have managed to become odd bedfellows in the diplomatic mêlée to keep China out of the South China Sea. If their gambit has a positive effect, others may want to follow suit. Moreover, deepening partnership between the two countries has paved the way for the emergence of a "security diamond" of like-minded states in the Western Pacific, especially as Japan, Australia, and India step up their counter-measures against rising Chinese maritime assertiveness in the Pacific waters.
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All comments [ 10 ]


Huy Quốc 10/2/15 23:26

The Philippines and Vietnam, two of the most vocal critics of China's attempts to claim almost all of the South China Sea.

Quân Hoàng 10/2/15 23:27

It is important because we share common concerns in this region especially when it comes to the South China Sea issue.

Hoàng Lân 10/2/15 23:28

The Philippines and Vietnam are natural allies in their common struggle against China’s drive for hegemony in East Asia.

Lê Tín 10/2/15 23:29

A review of defense interaction reveals that over the last five years, progress has been spotty though gradual, but prospects for an alliance still remain over the horizon.

Quốc Cường 10/2/15 23:30

The Philippines and Vietnam reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Defense Cooperation on October 26, 2010.

Huy Lâm 10/2/15 23:33

Remember, the two countries have not yet held practical military exercises that would enhance interoperability.

Hùng Quân 10/2/15 23:34

The two countries agreed to form a commission to outline a strategic partnership. A hopeful alliance.

Vân Nhàn 10/2/15 23:36

The Philippines only has two strategic partners so far – the United States and Japan, both of which also remain challenged by China.

Quốc Kiên 10/2/15 23:37

Experts say strategic partnerships remain vaguely defined, but agree these involve shared objectives to promote regional security, among other things.

Phạm Hiếu 10/2/15 23:39

The ultimate aim is not to contain China, which has become the pivot of economic prosperity in Asia, but to constrain the sharp edges of China's inexorable rise in recent decades.

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