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Fears of arms race, 'unintended collisions' surface in South China Sea

By Viet Anh   November 18, 2021 | 06:13 pm PT
Fears of arms race, 'unintended collisions' surface in South China Sea
Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning sails through the Miyako Strait near Okinawa on its way to the Pacific in this handout photo taken by Japan Self-Defense Forces and released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan on April 4, 2021. Photo handout via Reuters
South China Sea developments over the past year have raised the specter of an arms race and other concerns, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Quang Hieu said Thursday.

"The rapid increase in military activities at sea, undersea, in the air and in space are raising concerns about an arms race and the risk of unintended collisions," Hieu said at the 13th South China Sea International Conference hosted by the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.

The South China Sea is known as the East Sea in Vietnam.

Hieu said that competition between great powers and the emergence of new cooperation mechanisms in the region pose new problems for the evolving regional architecture, especially the central role of ASEAN.

He said that the South China Sea situation was at an important junction that required countries to be highly alert, assess the situation objectively, draw historical lessons and make scientific policy recommendations. On this basis, nations could narrow their perception gaps, increase transparency in the regional strategic environment and minimize production and propagation of negative information towards strengthening strategic trust and cooperation among all stakeholders in the region.

Primary element

Vice Admiral Yoji Koda, former Commander in Chief, Japan Self Defense Fleet (JSDF), said at the conference that the rapid increase of Chinese naval and military capabilities would be the primary element when countries consider security in the South China Sea.

Among major developments in the region, China has been modernizing its navy, including the construction of aircraft carriers, large missile destroyers and large replenishment tanks, and building up its submarine force.

He noted that the modernization and robust building up of naval forces is supported by other branches of militaries, especially the Rocket Forces, and some high-tech forces that try to control the new domains like space, cyberspace and other areas.

Koda said there were some choke points in the South China Sea, including Mindono Strait, Lombok Strait, and other related passages in Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, which could become serious focal points in the future for security in the region.

He suggested that countries should take the fact that "every nation should have the right to use those choke points freely" into account when South China Sea security is discussed, or even security of the larger Indo Pacific area. The choke points are not under the control of any country, Koda noted.

He said Japan, along with the U.S., the U.K., and India were not outsiders on South China Sea issues. These countries have been operating in the region for around a century. Therefore, this fact should be maintained as a principle in the discussion on Code of Conduct in the waters (COC), which ASEAN and China are negotiating, he added.

 
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