Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
在 最近的一次事件中﹐越南外交部週四說﹐一只中國漁船在兩艘中國海軍巡邏船的支持下﹐割斷了越南一艘地震勘探船所使用的電纜﹐該勘探船由國有能源企業越南國 有油氣公司(PetroVietnam)運營。越南外交部發言人Nguyen Phuong Nga對河內的記者說﹐中國漁船的行為完全是有預謀的、嚴重侵犯了越南主權。
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
新 南威爾士大學(University of New South Wales)澳洲國防軍事學院(Australian Defence Force Academy)教授塞耶(Carlyle Thayer)說﹐導致分歧惡化的誘因主要是經濟利益。人們普遍認為﹐南中國海那些半淹沒的島嶼和礁石﹐尤其是南沙群島和西沙群島的海底﹐蘊藏著大規模的 石油和天然氣﹐越南和菲律賓已經開始對部分油氣田進行開發。
在 3月初發生的一起類似事件中﹐菲律賓軍方說﹐在菲律賓巴拉望省(Palawan)以西的禮樂灘(Reed Bank)附近海域﹐兩艘中國船只干擾了一艘菲律賓石油勘探船的活動。菲律賓政府還指責中國海軍2月底向傑克森環礁(Jackson Atoll﹐中國稱五方礁)的菲律賓漁民開火。傑克森環礁靠近菲律賓﹐菲律賓宣稱對其擁有主權。
不 過﹐安全分析人士說﹐較小主張國聯合行動將南海問題的解決方案國際化﹐特別是越南和菲律賓﹐可能會促使中國做出越來越敵對的回應。美國國務卿希拉里•克林 頓(Hillary Clinton)去年在訪問越南期間﹐提出為促進這一海域的多方會談提供幫助﹐這令中國極為不滿。
此後﹐越南繼續敦促東盟(Association of Southeast Asian Nations) 10國在解決這一地區緊張局勢中發揮核心作用。菲律賓最近幾個月也開始敦促進行多方會談。而此前菲律賓曾花數年時間爭取鞏固與中國的政治和經濟同盟關係。
越南總理阮晉勇(Nguyen Tan Dung)週三稱﹐越南對南海的主權是“無可爭辯的”。 這是阮晉勇自越南與中國的爭端惡化以來首次公開發表言論﹐表明河內想有意對抗中國。
河內此前一直提出把金蘭灣(Cam Ranh Bay)海軍基地提供給在這一地區作業的外國海軍作為維修和加油站。分析人士預計此舉可能會促使澳大利亞、俄羅斯、印度和美國等國家的船只大量到港停靠。
Tensions flared in the potentially resource-rich South China Sea as Vietnam accused China of sabotaging a seismic survey boat while Beijing's ambassador to the Philippines called on China's neighbors to stop probing for oil in disputed waters without its permission.
Worries over the stability of the South China Sea have mounted steadily in recent months, escalating into a series of clashes between Vietnamese exploration craft and Chinese patrol boats and a worsening war of words with the Philippines.
In the latest incident, Vietnam's foreign ministry on Thursday said a Chinese fishing boat supported by two Chinese naval patrol craft cut a cable being used by a seismic survey craft operated by state-run energy company PetroVietnam. Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga told reporters in Hanoi that the Chinese boat's actions were 'completely premeditated' and 'seriously violated Vietnam's sovereign rights.'
China's ambassador to the Philippines, Liu Jianchao, denied any wrongdoing in the area while also urging South China Sea claimants to stop drilling for oil and gas.
Regional security analysts say the incident reflects a pattern of Chinese muscle-flexing in the disputed waters, which are claimed in whole or in part by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia in addition to China, which says it considers the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory.
Carlyle Thayer, a professor at Australian Defence Force Academy at the University of New South Wales, says the trigger for the worsening disputes is largely economic. The semi-submerged islands and reefs of the South China Sea--especially the Spratly Islands and the Paracels--are widely believed to lie atop significant reserves of oil and natural gas, and Vietnam and the Philippines are already tapping some fields in the region.
China 'seeks to control these resources because they are abundant and closer to home than oil from the Middle East,' Mr. Thayer said.
The Chinese navy can also protect the sea routes over which South China Sea oil must be carried, he said. 'The South China Sea forms one part of a larger effort by China to secure energy supplies around the world in order to fuel its high economic growth rates,' he said.
China has said it wants to preserve peace in the region and negotiate sea disputes. But it also has argued neighboring countries are undermining its interests in the South China Sea as they expand exploration there.
'We're calling on other parties to stop searching for the possibility of exploiting resources in these areas where China has its claims,' Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao told reporters in Manila, adding that 'we will never use force unless attacked.'
Two weeks ago, Vietnam accused a Chinese patrol craft of cutting the cables on another survey boat. Like the incident reported Thursday, it occurred within 200 nautical miles of Vietnam's coast, which, under international law, Vietnam regards as its own exclusive economic zone.
In a similar incident in early March, the Philippine military said two Chinese boats disrupted a Philippine oil exploration boat's activities near the Reed Bank west of the Philippines' Palawan province. The Philippine government also accuses China's navy of firing on Filipino fisherman at Jackson Atoll, which is near the Philippines and claimed by that country, in late February.
The Philippines has filed a series of complaints with the United Nations about China's alleged behavior in the South China Sea.
However, security analysts say a concerted effort among the smaller claimant countries--especially Vietnam and the Philippines--to internationalize a settlement over the South China Sea might be goading China into increasingly belligerent responses. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's move to offer Washington's assistance in facilitating multiparty talks over the waters while visiting Vietnam last year infuriated China.
Since then, Vietnam has continued to press for the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to play a central role in resolving tensions in the area. The Philippines, which had spent several years trying to firm up political and economic alliances with China, has also begun pushing for multiparty talks in recent months.
The U.S., too, has waded once more into the controversy, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Saturday predicting that more clashes could occur unless the rival claimants find a way to peacefully settle their disputes.
In the meantime, stresses and strains in the region continue to deepen, especially in Vietnam. Some 200 Vietnamese demonstrators protested against China's expanding influence over the sea on Sunday in a rare public display against a fellow Communist nation--an event which some analysts say must have involved a degree of support from the Vietnamese authorities, given its tight control over public dissent.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, in his first public comments since Vietnam's dispute with China worsened, on Wednesday described Vietnam's claims to the South China sea as 'incontestable,' in a sign of Hanoi's willingness to stand up to China.
Hanoi previously has offered its navy base at Cam Ranh Bay as a repair and refueling stop for foreign navies operating in the region--a move that analysts expect could prompt a flood of port calls from vessels from countries such as Australia, Russia, India and the U.S.
Vietnam is also buying six Kilo-class submarines from Russia to help expand its reach in the South China Sea and also help counteract China's growing naval power.