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Al Jazeera English | Mar 27
Military tension is rising in Asia, and not just on the Korean peninsula. A Chinese naval task force has reached the southernmost part of the South...
Tensions escalate in the South China Sea
Last week we told you about a confrontation between Chinese and Vietnamese ships. It's the latest in a long-running territorial dispute between China and Vietnam over who controls the South China Sea. This week Vietnam raised the stakes. Vietnamese warships went into the South China Sea to hold live fire drills. The Chinese army's newspaper responded by accusing the Vietnamese of stirring up tensions. Some people in Beijing agreed.
I think that Vietnam's reaction to China's action is a kind of a challenge because the South China Sea has been China's territory since ancient times. They have no right to conduct a military drill there.
As a Chinese, I think that the Chinese government needs to be forceful enough this time. The Philippines and other countries are watching to see China's reaction, so like this time, if China allows Vietnam to carry out these kinds of activities against it, I think there will be some negative impact.
The US State Department weighed in on the matter, saying that it was concerned about the increasing tension in the region. And two US senators went further, urging the american government to condemn what they called China's use of force and interference with navigation. So, what was China's reaction? The foreign ministry criticized outsiders for sticking their noses in a regional dispute.
Hong Lei, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson:
Some countries have issued groundless and irresponsible statements that exaggerate and complicate the situation in the South China Sea. This is the source of the problem. China is just protecting its own legitimate rights and is not infringing on those other countries.
So what's behind all this interest in the South China Sea? For one thing, it contains valuable fishing grounds, and it's rumored to have oil and gas deposits that could rival those in the Persian gulf. Plus, it's a major ocean freeway, and restricting access could shut down the flow of goods and oil, affecting countries all over the world.
Hackers take Vietnam-China dispute online
At its heart, this is a fight about money, national pride, and access to a critical trade route. And now the fight's escalating online. Chinese hackers were quick to jump in, even before their government criticized Vietnam. As Vietnam's VTV 4 reports, the hackers started with the oil industry's online newspaper.
It was 8 o'clock in the evening on June 9th. And nearly an hour after the online Petro Times newspaper posted pictures of the ship, Vin king 2, owned by Petro Vietnam. The ship was threatened while working in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. That's when the newspaper was attacked by hackers.
Nguyen Nhu Phong, Editor in Chief of Petro Times:
It had just gone 8pm that day when our website was doubly attacked. Hackers mobilized around 600,000 accesses at the same time, blocking the website, causing a denial of service attack. And then hackers deleted all the data. We had prepared for the situation, so we were able to prevent the attack. We didn't allow the hacker to post anything on our website.
The Petro Times website was paralyzed for a half-hour. On the previous day, June 8th, A website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also attacked, and its interface was changed. The website of the Ministry of Agriculture also suffered the same fate. And around 20 sub domains of this portal were also hacked. The number of websites hacked has doubled in this period, hackers have mostly targeted the domain names belonging to the Vietnamese government.
Nguyen Minh Duc, Director of Security Division of Bkav:
The attacks is obviously intentional. Hackers have tried to attack as many websites as possible. We now have reached a conclusion as to the qualifications of those attempting attacks. But one thing is suddenly clear, that the security of many our websites is not good. Even some websites were attacked twice or three times, but they haven't taken any measures to deal with it.
A Vietnamese security firm has warned website administrators to regularly back up data and develop ways to cope with hackers.
Anti-Chinese protests continue in Vietnam
It's not just China's hackers that are heating things up online. Based on the social media buzz from China, people there are furious. Here's LinkAsia's Annie Fu.
The sentiment on Chinese social media seems to have turned vicious. On Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, this micro-blogger says:
These Vietnamese are so mindless, how much money could you be getting from the US for these little activities? Their lives are so backwards, not focusing on the economy...
Another blogger eggs on the Vietnamese, telling them to continue what they're doing so that the hackers can keep attacking Vietnamese government websites.
I am totally speechless about these Vietnamese... Good! Good! Very Good! More than 600 hackers attacking government websites.
The following blogger seems to be taking the dispute personally.
I can't fall asleep at night... I think the Vietnamese should get spanked! Look how ugly they are when they're protesting!
Keep in mind that the web is often censored in China, so it seems clear that the Chinese government is okay with these posts. I'm Anni Fu with LinkAsia.
And what about the mood in Vietnam? Judging by the chatter in the blogosphere, the Vietnamese are just as angry. From Hanoi, Nguyen Qui Duc samples some of the buzz.
Nguyen Qui Duc:
People have been very excited here: they've managed two anti-Chinese demonstrations in two weekends in two cities. But it's really not that hard to get the Vietnamese excited about resisting China's dominance. Vietnamese history, it seems, since day one, has been about Chinese armies pushing down, and the Vietnamese pushing back. For example, two thousand years ago, the Trung Sisters fought a tyrannical Chinese governor. Their images are still printed on postcards and posters today.
Nguyen Qui Duc:
The last time Vietnam and China fought was a tough border war in 1979. What's happening now is a war of words particularly on the blogosphere, and on sites such as Facebook: patriotic postings, messages about boycotting Chinese goods, like this one by Nguyen Hau: "Today at the supermarket, I was determined to put back a Chinese item, even though there was nothing similar made in Vietnam or any other country." Even a government sanctioned newspaper -- Thanh Nien, published by the Alliance of Youth Groups -- has this to say about Chinese goods: "Eliminating low-price "weapons" made in China is something Vietnamese consumers must do right now."
Nguyen Qui Duc:
But it was the hour-by-the-hour accounts on blogs and social sites of what was happening at the protests that changed things. There were news and images of police and plain clothes security people. Then pictures of protesters being arrested, sent by cell phones. That's when the anger against the Chinese seems to turn towards the Vietnamese authorities. This one from firebrand blogger Ho Lan Huong, whose house in Ho Chi Minh City was surrounded by the police, preventing her from leaving her home on the day of the protest: "Are you that desperate? Why be so afraid of patriotism? We're prepared for the homeland, and you're trembling in fears?"
Nguyen Qui Duc:
A more direct question was found on boxit-vn, a blocked website started in protest against Chinese bauxite mining in Vietnam: Under the current leadership, how many more years before the Vietnamese people stop suffering? It's a question even God can't answer. It torments the minds of so many who want freedom and democracy for their country, only to pay for it with time in jail. Vietnam's prime minister has stepped up his rhetoric against what's called "Chinese aggression." Meanwhile, just a few days ago, the government has issued a new drafting ordinance. The issue looks likely to dominate the blogosphere, especially as the Vietnamese have been holding naval exercises in the dispute region. I'm Nguyen Qui Duc in Hanoi for LinkAsia.
There's no sign that the South China Sea's going to calm down anytime soon. We'll keep you posted on developments here and on linkasia.org.