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    Vietnam Tag

    President Barack Obama has lifted a five decade old arms ban against Vietnam as China Sea tensions continue to rise. At a press conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, Obama said that he did not consider China's aggression in the region as a motivating factor. He chose to remove the ban as "part of a deeper defense cooperation with the country" and "normalizing relations" between the one time enemies:
    “Over time what we’ve seen is a progressive deepening and broadening of the [bilateral] relationship,” Obama said. “And what became apparent to me and my administration at this point was … that it was appropriate for us not to have a blanket, across-the-board ban.”
    The U.S. implemented the ban during the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975 after the army withdrew forces from Saigon. North Vietnam ambushed the city, reunited the two Vietnams, and renamed the capital Ho Chi Minh City after the revolutionary leader.

    On Fox News Tuesday, U.S. officials announced China has deployed a series of fighter jets to a contested island in the South China Sea known as Woody Island. The news comes little more than a week after surface to air missiles were spotted via satellite on the same island. Officials said U.S. intelligence has seen both Chinese Shenyang J-11 and Xian JH-7 jets on Woody Island for the past few days. One official estimated that there were as many as nine of these jets deployed to the island.

    China has deployed an advanced anti-aircraft missile system to a contested island in the South China Sea, Pentagon officials confirmed on Tuesday. The news came as President Obama concluded a two-day conference at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Sunnylands, California. Satellite images from February 14 show several HQ-9 missile launchers lined along the beach of Woody Island of the Paracel Island chain. The HQ-9 is a medium to long-range surface-to-air missile system with advanced radar homing capabilities. It can shoot down missiles as well as aircraft up to 125 miles away. That the missiles were discovered at the same time President Obama met with ten other ASEAN world leaders is likely no coincidence. Obama said the leaders convened to "discuss the need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions, including a halt to further reclamation, new construction, and militarization of disputed areas."

    China performed a series of test flights for the first time Saturday on a newly constructed runway in the South China Sea. The 3,000 meter airstrip sits atop a Fiery Cross Reef, an artificial island constructed by the Chinese in the Spratly Islands region. The airstrip is long enough to accommodate a variety of aircraft including 4-engine jets, military transport planes, and the nation's most advanced fighters. A spokesperson with the Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed a civil flight test was performed with civilian aircraft. 

    The Spratly Islands are one of the world's most highly contested regions and are claimed by Vietnam, China, and Taiwan. They are also claimed in part by the Philippines, Brunei, and Malaysia. Responding to China's activities on Saturday, Vietnam launched a formal diplomatic protest and it is expected that the Philippines will follow suit. Vietnam's response comes after an improvement in American-Vietnamese relations as China's presence in this region becomes a shared threat to both America and Vietnam. Defense Secretary Carter's vocal opposition to China's activities has further emboldened countries bordering the South China Sea.

    Tensions between China and Vietnam have recently escalated after more than two weeks of conflict over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. From CNN:
    China has evacuated more than 3,000 of its citizens from Vietnam and is sending ships to retrieve more of them after deadly anti-Chinese violence erupted last week over a territorial dispute between the two countries. Five Chinese ships will travel to Vietnam to help with the evacuation, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Sunday, citing the Ministry of Transport. One of the ships has already set off from the southern island province of Hainan, the ministry said. Sixteen critically injured Chinese citizens were flown out of Vietnam on Sunday morning on a chartered medical plane organized by Chinese authorities, Xinhua said. Two Chinese citizens were killed and more than 100 others were injured in the violence that hit parts of Vietnam last week, according to the news agency. Some of the worst violence appeared to have taken place in the central coastal province of Ha Tinh. Foreign factories, particularly those run by companies from China and Taiwan, were burned and looted by rioters outraged over Beijing's decision to send an oil rig into waters of the South China Sea that both countries claim as sovereign territory.
    Protests are usually not permitted in Vietnam, but were initially allowed until violence erupted and the situation grew out of control, according to CNN.  Authorities there are now trying to stop the protests.  Reuters reports that police in a few areas of Vietnam on Sunday were directing those gathering for rallies to disperse. The conflict began earlier this month when China first parked the aforementioned oil rig in the disputed waters, triggering back and forth demands from both sides to retreat. From the Associated Press via Yahoo News:
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