1) China is upset—who cares?
On 6/21/2012, Vietnam announced that its Congress passed the Maritime Law that claims full sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands.
Immediately, China was upset and criticized Vietnam for its law—claiming they are indisputable territory of China. China summoned Ambassador Nguyen van Tho to protest the law, according to its spokeman Hong Lei.
From New York Times…“Vietnam’s Maritime Law, declaring sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, is a serious violation of China’s territorial sovereignty,” a ministry statement said. “China expresses its resolute and vehement opposition.”
2) Why now?
The dispute over the East Sea (aka South China Sea) and the 2 islands—Paracel and Spratly—has been over many years.
In 1974, South Vietnam and China fought over the 2 islands.
In 1988, Vietnam and China engaged in a brief war over the islands also.
In recent years, China has bullied Vietnam in the East Sea. China has threatened and successfully terminated an oil exploration between India and Vietnam in the ocean which is in Vietnam’s territory.
Why now? Why does Vietnam officially pass its Maritime Law claiming its sovereignty of East Sea and the 2 islands?
—In two weeks a meeting of foreign ministers of ASEAN will take place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be there. If not already on the agenda, the disputes of the East Sea will now discussed.
—And still fresh on the minds of Vietnamese officials are the recent discussions with Secretary Leon Panetta.
It will be interesting to hear what Secretary Clinton says about the disputes—other than the countries have to reach bilateral agreements on their own.