Xi to visit Vietnam next week as SCS tension escalates

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Vietnam next week in a bid to pacify it amid escalating tensions over the South China Sea dispute, in which Hanoi is one of the vociferous contenders.

In his trip to Vietnam followed by Singapore, Xi will seek the involvement of the two countries in China’s ambitious plan to revive ancient trade routes, an official said.

Vietnam and Singapore are both important points along the maritime silk road, part of the “Belt and Road” initiative launched by China two years ago, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Xi’s visit from November 5 to 7 is expected to revitalise relations with the two countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) while helping build a strong foundation to create a community of common destiny among ASEAN nations, said Zhang Dewei, former Chinese Ambassador to Vietnam.

The US’ move to challenge China’s claims over sovereignty in the newly-reclaimed islands by sending its warship besides international arbitral tribunal’s ruling to admit the Philippines’ petition to arbitrate on China’s claims have raised the stakes of the South China Sea dispute.

On Tuesday, the US guided missile destroyer USS Lassen entered waters of Sub Reef in the disputed SCS which drew vehement protests from China.

Notwithstanding the Chinese allegations of a provocative behaviour, the US said that to assert its freedom of navigation, it will send more warships to sail close to the artificial islands built by Beijing in the disputed waters.

A tribunal constituted by the Permanent Court of Arbitration yesterday admitted Philippines’ petition to arbitrate its case against China on the SCS dispute, a ruling rejected by China as null and void.

Earlier, Vietnam too toyed with the idea of going to the tribunal after China pressed rigs in the SCS to drill which had resulted in anti-China protests in Vietnam.

China claims sovereignty on almost all of the South China Sea which is firmly opposed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The five countries are backed by US in staking their claims countering that of China.