Last week, Vietnam deployed destroyer 016 Quang Trung and anti-submarine helicopters to an area near the Truong Sa (Spratlys) in the East Sea (South China Sea) for conducting live drills, according to VnExpress on April 7.
Vietnam’s drills in the South China Sea took place in the context of hundreds of Chinese fishing boats gathered in the Whitsun Reef, a part of Spratlys, which Vietnam claims.
Vietnam Television added: “On the Truong Sa, combat preparation is at the highest level.”
Answering BBC News Vietnamese about the above developments, Dr. Nguyen Thanh Trung, Director of the Center for International Studies (ISCS) said: “The Government of Vietnam wants to send a much bigger message: affirm Vietnam’s claim of sovereignty over Spratlys.
Does Vietnam “shows attitude” to China?
The 016 Quang Trung, equipped with anti-submarine missiles, currently in Spratlys, VnExpress said.
At the same time, Vietnam’s Ka-28 helicopter conducted emergency landing maneuvers.
At the same time, China continued to send more than 200 marine militia ships to close to the area of Kennen Rock and Gaven Stone on April 11, while at Whitsun Reef only 9 boats remained, according to AFP.
The incident has made the already tense situation in the South China Sea even hotter.
Previously, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang declared that China’s deployment of ships in Whitsun Reef was an act of “seriously infringing upon Vietnam’s sovereignty.” At the same time, the Philippines sent reconnaissance aircraft to the area with Chinese fishing vessels and summoned the Chinese ambassador.
A number of international newspapers then published information on Vietnam’s drills with the question of whether Vietnam was ‘showing attitude’ to China or not.
The British Express page stated that Vietnam sent warships to the Spratlys area for exercises to “retaliate against Beijing’s aggressive claims in the South China Sea,” and also to “respond” to Chinese militia ships encroaching the waters claimed by Vietnam.
“One of the Vietnamese coastguard ships is anchored at Whitsun Reef to monitor nearly 220 Chinese militia ships operating in the area,” added Express.
Australia’s News page wrote that “Vietnam is ready to fight in the South China Sea when Chinese ships enter the area.”
“China dispatched missile ships. The Philippines sent aircraft. But another country is deploying troops to make claims in the South China Sea – Vietnam,” the News article described.
“As Beijing’s” militia fishing force moved over the Spratlys Iand Manila sent reconnaissance aircraft to observe, Hanoi sent one of its warships to conduct combat maneuvers nearby,” still according to News.
“Modern anti-submarine ship Quang Trung and helicopters have maneuvered in front of China and its most militarized groups of ships,” News wrote.
CNN recently described Chinese fishing vessels in the South China Sea as a “Navy” unknown to the world.
“Send a bigger message”
However, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Trung said that it was normal for Vietnam to exercise in this area, and sending Quang Trung ship to the South China Sea at this time sent a much larger message.
Trung told the BBC:
“The fact of sending Gepard-class missile 016 Quang Trung to conduct a training exercise in the Spratlys in the context of hundreds of Chinese fishing ships that many experts believe are the anchored marine militia ships in Whitsun reef, and later on Ken Na rock belonging to Union Banks cluster in Spratlys easily lead to some speculation about the motive of Vietnam.”
“While the timing might generate speculation that Vietnam wants to ‘show its attitude” to China, I think the message is much bigger. The Vietnamese government wants to assert that Vietnam has complete sovereignty over Spratlys and its live drills in this area are normal. The story of wanting to “show an attitude” is not satisfied with just one missile guard ship, and sometimes sends the wrong message.”
“I think China will not pay much attention to the exercises of the Quang Trung fireguard ship because China has repeatedly practiced in the South China Sea in recent years.”
“In 2020, China and the US have repeatedly conducted large-scale exercises in the South China Sea with the participation of aircraft carriers to show their mighty power in the deployment of power.”
“The US even held many drills in the South China Sea with the participation of allied nations like Japan, Australia and close partners like Singapore.”
“The two sides use drills as a way to show the other side their naval and air superiority, and the manipulation is just secondary.”
“Therefore, if I talk about Vietnamese drills in the South China Sea, I do not think that China will push tensions with Vietnam up this time when the scale of Vietnamese exercises is relatively small.”
“In addition, China is reluctant to push Vietnam into a heated US-Philippine military alliance in recent weeks with the Whitsun Reef incident.”
“China will suffer strategic losses if it pushes tensions in the South China Sea up high at this time when some countries outside the region such as Australia, France, Germany, UK, Japan also want to join the US to maintain. international law in the sea.”
“I also think that Vietnam still maintains its consistent policy on sovereignty in the South China Sea, but still applies a flexible policy with China rather than a tough confrontational policy in the future.”
What is special about Quang Trung?
016 Quang Trung, a Gepard-class frigate, entered service in 2018, carries a variety of modern Russian weapons and camouflage technology such as radar-absorbing paint.
The main armament of this frigate includes eight 3M24E missiles with a range of 130 km, an AK-176MA gun, and other missile combinations. The ship is also capable of carrying a Ka-28 helicopter for anti-submarine warfare.
The hull and superstructure are constructed mainly of steel. The hull is divided into 10 watertight compartments. The ship is designed to float even when two adjacent compartments are flooded with water.
These ships are capable of using their weapon systems in conditions up to Sea State 5, according to NavyRecognition.
South China Sea tensions are attracting the attention of many other countries.
In addition to Germany and France, the UK also wants a presence in this sea to uphold the principle of freedom of navigation as a form of “reminding China.”
The British newspapers on April 15, citing the Ministry of Defense and the Royal Navy, said that here, the newest British aircraft carrier, the HMS Elizabeth, is about to have her first voyage to Asia.
It is expected that the ship will pass through the Indian Ocean, Singapore, and the South China Sea to Northeast Asia and end the trip with the Japanese navy.