Vietnam’s national security and economic development are tied up in a risk-laden dispute over the South China Sea with China, the neighboring giant whose policies are hard to predict, said Hoang Anh Tuan, director of the Vietnamese Institute for Foreign Affairs and Strategic Studies.
A “confrontation in the South China Sea could be more devastating than any wars, any confrontations that you have seen in the region,” Tuan said March 23 at a conference held by Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l’Ecole Militaire (IRSEM), a think tank at the French military’s staff college.
Vietnam and China have long contested claims over the Spratly and Paracel islands, including last year’s dispute over China’s attempted oil drilling and clashes between Vietnamese fishermen and Chinese boats. China is also laying claim to territory, which has prompted concern in the region.
The risk extends to European nations, particularly France, which depend on the blue waters for trade with Asia, said French Ambassador Christian Lechervy, permanent secretary for Pacific affairs. French strategic factors are also keyed into the region.
“The fluidity of our forces in the Indo-Pacific is absolutely crucial for our nuclear deterrence,” Lechervy said. “The tension arising from maritime and territorial dispute is a deep concern to us and to allies in the region. We have to work in alliance, especially the US and Australia.”
Read More:Vietnam Has Much at Stake in S. China Sea.