Five ships will join in the evacuation of Chinese nationals from Vietnam after more than 3,000 fled the nation following deadly anti-China riots there last week over a Chinese oil rig deployed in nearby contested waters.
Police and security officers in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi and in southern Ho Chi Minh City halted anti-China protests Sunday, unlike the previous weekend when similar protests were permitted. Authorities in one-party Vietnam rarely allow public demonstrations, but nationalist, China-related protests sometimes prove an exception.
Two Chinese workers were killed midweek, and more than 100 injured as mobs targeted Chinese factories and Taiwanese factories employing Chinese workers. In a bid to reassure nervous foreign investors, top Vietnamese security official Lt. Gen. Hoang Kong Tu vowed Saturday to ensure the safety of all foreign citizens and investments in the country, including from China. Over 1,000 suspects have been arrested in connection with the attacks, which authorities have blamed on extremists.
China has increased its security warning for Chinese tourists in Vietnam, and is now telling citizens not to travel to the country, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement released Sunday. China will also suspend some bilateral exchange plans with Vietnam in response to the violence, Hong said.
That move sparked the latest troubles and highlighted Beijing’s increasingly assertive approach to its territorial claims that cover almost the entire South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest waterways that is potentially rich in oil and gas. China now has several maritime disputes simmering with countries nervous about Beijing’s growing economic and military power.
Vietnam says 80 Chinese ships are protecting the oil rig, deployed some 120 miles from Vietnam’s coast and therefore well within Vietnam’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone, as defined by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Both sides have accused the other of “provocations” as boats have collided, and Chinese ships have used water cannons, according to Vietnamese media footage.