HANOI, Vietnam — Hundreds of
Vietnamese launched a third week of protests against China on Sunday amid
escalating tensions in disputed waters of the South China Sea, where both
countries recently conducted live-fire military drills.
About 300 people gathered near
the Chinese Embassy in the capital, Hanoi, and
marched through the streets, yelling “Down with China!” and
demanding that their powerful northern neighbor stay out of Vietnam’s
territory. Crowds also gathered in southern Ho Chi
“We will fight for our country if the nation needs us,”
said student Nguyen Manh Ha, 20. “Not only me, but all Vietnamese people will
die to protect our territory.”
Protests are extremely rare in Vietnam and are typically quashed quickly
by security forces, but Hanoi has allowed the demonstrations to
go on for the past three Sundays amid tight security. At one point, the crowd,
waving Vietnamese flags, stopped at a department store and shouted “Boycott
“I’m here today to protect my country from an invading China,” said Nguyen Long, 82, who
fought in a short, bloody land border war with China in 1979. “I’m sure those in the
embassy are listening to us shouting ‘Down with China!’”
Relations between the communist countries hit a low point
after two incidents in the past month involving clashes between Chinese and
Vietnamese boats in the South China Sea.
Vietnam accuses Chinese vessels of
hindering oil exploration surveys in an area 200 nautical miles off its central
coast that it claims as its economic exclusive zone. China says Vietnam illegally entered its waters near
the disputed Spratly islands and endangered Chinese fishermen.
The two sides have a long history of exchanging diplomatic
jabs over maritime incidents, mainly involving areas around the believed resource-rich
Spratly and Paracel islands, which are claimed all or in part by Vietnam, China and several other Asian
countries. But the current spat has become much more hostile.
Vietnam held live-fire naval exercises
off its central coast last Monday — the same day the government issued an order
outlining who would be exempt from a military draft. On Friday, China announced it had also recently
held three days and nights of drills in the South China Sea, though it did not give exact
The United States has said the South China Sea, home to key shipping lanes, is
in its national interest. China says territorial disputes should
be handled one-on-one, but Vietnam has said it welcomes foreign
assistance to maintain regional peace and stability.
The U.S. and Vietnam issued a joint statement Friday
following an annual defense dialogue, with Washington saying the recent “troubling”
incidents raise concerns about maritime security.
Associated Press video journalist Hau Dinh contributed to
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