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China, Vietnam Heighten Tensions on High Seas
December 5, 2012

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Vietnam says its ships will embark on patrols in the South China Sea in order to protect its fishing interests in the area.

The government made the announcement in response to a decree by China that its ships reserved the right to stop and search any other ships in the area. Vietnam also claimed that Chinese boats had cut cables on a Vietnamese oil survey ship off the Vietnamese coast. A similar event occurred in 2010, and heightened tensions resulted then as well. The Chinese Ambassador to Vietnam was on the way to Hanoi for consultation over the latest event.

Tensions between the two countries were already high in response to new Chinese passports that claimed long-disputed areas as part of China. Vietnam and the Philippines have refused to stamp the new passports, instead handing out visas on separate paper. The new Chinese passports also claim as Chinese two Himalayan regions that India also claim.

The events come in the wake of recent discoveries of new deposits of oil and natural gas in the South China Sea, in a situation similar to the ongoing row between China, Taiwan, and Japan over ownership of the land and waters surrounding a set of islands in the East China Sea.

The Chinese government, led by new leader Xi Jinping, has announced a major new effort to emphasize offshore natural production, with a projected increase in two years from 20 billion cubic meters to 150 billion cubic meters.

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