by Richard Tomkins
Washington (UPI) Oct 10, 2014
China objected Friday to the U.S. decision to partially lift its ban on selling weapons to Vietnam, calling it an interfering and destabilizing action.
The objection came in a news story printed by People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Beijing government.
"This is not a sensible course of action," it said in a carefully worded presentation.
"Moreover, the policy is a clear extension of America's interference with the balance of power in the region."
The U.S. State Department announced earlier this month that it was partially lifting the decades-old ban on weapons sales to Vietnam as part of a broader U.S. strategy to help countries in the South China Sea region of Asia to strengthen their maritime security capabilities.
Sales of maritime weapons and weapon platforms to Vietnam would be entertained by Washington on a case-by-case basis, the State Department said.
The move, however, came amid rising tensions between Beijing and Hanoi over the Paracel Islands, which both countries claim sovereignty over.
In May, China's state-owned China National Offshore Oil Company moved an oil rig to an area Vietnam claims was within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, while in August Chinese naval vessels stopped and searched Vietnamese fishing boats and seized equipment.
Sovereignty over the Paracels, as well as territorial claims over the Spratley Islands, have pitted China against not only Vietnam but also the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia and others.
The United States, which is turning its naval focus to the Asia-Pacific region, has officially stayed out of the disputes.
"China and Vietnam have signed an agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of maritime issues existing between the two countries," People's Daily said. "Furthermore, the two countries established a bilateral working group to discuss joint maritime development in 2013.
"However, the input of American weaponry will do nothing to help the consensus reached by the two countries. It will simply damage stability and add complexity to their disputes."
"Secondly, American's policy is not even-handed. While easing the embargo on Vietnam, America is maintaining its ban on arms sales to China, and limiting the export of other high-tech manufacturing," it said.
The People's Daily story called the partial rescinding of the U.S. ban on arms sales to Vietnam a "clear extension of America's interference with the balance of power in the region" and a method "to win back its influence" in Asia.
China's growing naval power is a major concern for the United States and countries in the region. The Philippines, a former U.S. commonwealth, is beefing up its naval assets and U.S. military ties amid its dispute with China over territory in the Spratly Islands and has so far procured two former U.S. Coast Guard cutters. Japan, which has its own territorial dispute with China is looking to re-draft its Post-WW II pacifist constitution to allow direct military action to support allies.
Washington's decision on the weapons ban, the People's Daily said, "stands in direct contradiction to America's stated aim of maintaining peace and stability, and it will hinder the development of the Sino-U.S. relationship."
"America should take note that this short-sighted policy of arms sales to China's neighbors will be taken as an example of indirect conflict" with China.
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