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VIETNAM RIOTS: China freezes some Vietnam ties, warns of further action

Publication Date : 19-05-2014


Move comes as Hanoi acts to quell anti-China unrest


China has suspended some diplomatic exchanges with Vietnam and warned of "further measures" even as the Vietnamese government deployed security personnel in the streets to snuff out fresh anti-China protests.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which made the announcement in a terse statement yesterday, gave no details about the diplomatic freeze. But it urged Chinese nationals not to travel to Vietnam, a warning that coincided with an announcement from major mainland tour agencies that they were suspending tour services to the Southeast Asian country.

Yesterday's announcements marked Beijing's sharpest retaliatory move yet against Hanoi over sea skirmishes related to China's controversial deployment of an oil rig in waters disputed by the two countries.

There was no response from Vietnam by press time last night.

Two Chinese nationals have died and more than 3,000 have been evacuated since anti-China unrest broke out in Vietnam last week.

"This sabotaged the atmosphere and conditions for bilateral communication and cooperation," the Chinese statement said.

Analysts saw Beijing's move as a calibrated slap on the wrist for Hanoi. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher Xu Liping told The Straits Times: "This is a suitable reaction in that it's not too severe.

"The government also left open the possibility of more severe sanctions if Vietnam does not rein in the situation, and that will send a chill considering the Vietnamese economy is doing badly right now."

Police and security personnel saturated the streets in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City yesterday to avert planned anti-China protests, carting off a few dozen protesters.

It was in sharp contrast to a week earlier, when thousands were allowed to take to the streets to protest against what they see as China's incursion into their country's maritime zone. But the protests turned violent by Tuesday, morphing into organised but indiscriminate rampages that left Chinese and other foreign-owned factories trashed and burned.

Yesterday morning, subscribers of state-owned mobile phone networks received text messages which cited Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung as ordering provincial and city officials to make sure people do not take part in illegal protests or disrupt public order.

In Ho Chi Minh City, large numbers of uniformed and plainclothes policemen were on the streets. Police on jeeps used loudhailers to tell bystanders to go home. In Hanoi, planned protests were also snuffed out early.

"I am very disappointed with the government," said office clerk Nguyen Minh Ha, adding that the Prime Minister had earlier told the people they had the right to show their patriotism.

In a statement yesterday, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh had called his counterpart K. Shanmugam last Friday to discuss the recent rioting at the two Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks in Binh Duong province.

Minh said the authorities were dealing with the situation firmly. Shanmugam responded by saying that investor confidence would be impacted and added that the burning of a Singapore flag by rioters last Tuesday was unacceptable.


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