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A New Geopolitical Framework for Maritime Southeast Asia

Organisers/Chairs:

Dr Nguyen Thanh
Languages and Oriental Civilizations Asia Pacific (Inalco)
nguyenthanh@hotmail.fr

Captain Ivan Cadeau
Armée Française (French Army)
ivancadeau@gmail.com

 

Panel Abstract

The territorial dispute for some islands in the China Sea has recently raised tension in Southeast Asia. In 2012 Shangri-La Dialogue, Leon Panetta, America Secretary of Defense, said that 60% of the US fleet will be deployed in Asia-Pacific by 2020. President Obama himself indicated that the Asia-Pacific region was a top priority of US security policy. Some Southeast Asian countries have then strengthened their military alliances and expended their military presence in this area after China’s decision to increase its maritime powers. This behavior made the situation tenser. It seems that the military involvement created some unexpected consequences, politically, economically and geopolitically. Will the maritime face of this region change with the strategic games and dispute for sovereignty? In their will to take the leadership, are India, China and the United States about to give a new shape to Asia? What are the lessons learned to date? Our panel proposes to take stock of the situation and to reassess whether special measures are necessary.

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Paper 1: The phasing out of French strategic and imperial ambitions in South China Sea: Direct result from Indochina War

Captain Ivan Cadeau
Armée Française (French Army)
ivancadeau@gmail.com

In the Inter-war period, France wanted to strengthen its position in Asia-Pacific by establishing naval bases, such as Cam Ranh, the most prominent example. At the end of Second World War, the idea has re-emerged and coincided with the will to restore its status of Great Power. Indochina War enabled to nurture this ambition as Indochinese theatre of operations called for the creation of operating bases to supply and support the French Far East Expeditionary Force and its major naval bases. The construction of these major logistical centres met initial operating requirements and intended to reflect the French will to set up in the long-term in the South China Sea. This started with the creation of Saigon’s naval base, Cap Saint Jacques 1954 – 1956. The end of Indochina War and the will of President Diem, 1956, to make a definite break with French tutelage had sounded the death knell for the French hopes. The weakness of French Navy and Algeria’s war needs imposed a refocus in the Mediterranean, especially for the Navy and finally led to an abandonment of South China Sea’s ambitions. More broadly, this led to an abandonment of Pacific’s ambitions. If the Pacific met a revival of interest with nuclear tests (Moruroa in the 60’s), the South China Sea is still neglected. Looking back of the French colonization history would help us to understand the importance of this area for France and what would be our perspectives for the future.

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Paper 2: Between the India and China’s naval leadership, what perspective for Vietnamese maritime in America’s vision and the new geopolitical frame of Asia?

Dr Nguyen Thanh
Languages and Oriental Civilizations Asia Pacific (Inalco)
nguyenthanh@hotmail.fr

Located on one of the most useful main line of communication, Vietnam shares with its neighbors an important part of South China Sea, this one claimed by China in its nine dotted line. The territorial disputes between neighbors raised after the announcement of China’s First to increase PLA’s powers. After more than 10 years in other conflicts, US navy is now back in Asia-Pacific, determined to take leadership. Military alliances, technological cooperation, the negotiation games are crucial. In this context, old friendships emerge. The Vietnamese story is linked with America’s since Vietnam War. As its sovereignty over some islands is contested, Vietnam is now reaching for alliances with powerful nations. Military partnership has signed with India. America’s decision to return in Asia-Pacific cannot come in a better time as Vietnamese government is now on a blink of bankruptcy and cannot enhance its military capabilities. American support is vital for Vietnam, the only country who shares with China land and sea borders. Will Obama’s new maritime policy be benefit for Vietnam? What consequences for the other Vietnamese neighbors? This paper aims to show the place of Vietnam and its maritime territory in the new geopolitical frame of Asia.

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Paper 3: Modernization of the Vietnamese People’s Army and techno-cultural vision in South China Sea, a response to the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army

Benoit Noget
Armée Française (French Army)
benoit.noget@gmail.com

The Chinese aggression of 1988 in Spratly reveals the weakness of Vietnamese to defend their sovereignty in no continental area. The need to modernize the VPA and acquire, quickly, new air and naval equipment became a guarantee of security and durability for the country. In full of Doi Moi reform, the successful modernization of the army returns to successful accomplishment of Doi Moi. As complex as the image of strategic importance of the South China Sea, Vietnam arms procurement can be described as unique. Responsible and controlled, modernization wants to be a balance between the entry of new technologies and their application in maritime environment. It is by combining successive phases of acquisition hardware integration, expression of the need adapted and capability gain that Vietnam built its reform. Mainly focused on the technical aspect from 1991 to 2009, it was only from the publication of the Defense White Paper 2009 that Vietnamese modernization integrated cultural vision. Between the Russian arms export policy in Asia and the Chinese modernization, Vietnam decides to mark his own difference, integrating models of management of foreign weapons programs. Diplomatically, this attitude enables a détente with China, including the modernization of its army, main threat to Hanoi.

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Paper 4: China confronts powerful countries during the dispute of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the issue: the South China Sea

Nguyen Thi Hanh
Hanoi National University of Education
hanh732002@yahoo.com

Chinese dispute for Vietnamese territorial sovereignty over two archipelagoes Paracels and Spratlys has lasted up to now. In fact, in the process of implementing its ambitions, China has always faced powerful countries involving the region and the South China Sea issue at different levels: French, American and Soviet Union. By persisting pursuit of the policy called “catching in on opportunity“, China took advantage of the change of regional and international situation as well as the change of powerful countries’ policy towards Vietnam to gradually expand its influence range and to occupy the islands under the sovereignty of Vietnam in the South China Sea. This paper focuses on studying main selected events during this period: Chine – France dispute on the territorial sovereignty over the South China Sea in the colonial period, Chinese aggression over Paracel in 1974 and over Spratly’s islands in 1988. This paper analyzes the factors involving in China’s decisions on aggressive actions at that time, offers explanations about the causes. On that basis, the paper aims at putting forward one question: whether the enhanced involvement of the great powers over the South China Sea issue is a good solution to help ASEAN countries to defend their sovereignty, or this enhancement itself will create leaking points for China to take advantage of pursuing the policy of “catching in on opportunity” to further expand its influence in the region in the future.

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Paper 5: From regional conflicts to diasporic insecurity

Le Thanh Hai
Polish Academy of Science
thanhai@wp.pl

The West always has to deal with refugees in case of war between poor countries. After the Chinese ban on fishing water in South East Asia, more people is currently think of following the illegal routes to Australia and Europe. More importantly, symbolic war between nations settling down around the South East Asian Sea (South China Sea) would expand via diasporas around the world and challenge national security of other counties far away from the region. Chinese workers in Poland gathered to demonstrated in front of the Japanese embassy in Poland. Vietnamese students in the UK organised protest in front of the Chinese embassy in London. Confrontation between two diasporic communities bring new problem to local police and authorities. Through lobby channels they can impact the central politics, both in their host countries and homeland. Vietnamese pro-democracy activists found common interest with anti-Chinese protesters in the Philippines and international representatives in Thailand. My paper follows the perspective through diasporas, suggested by Samuel Huntington in his last book Who Are We, to analyse regional and diasporic developments related to the territorial dispute in South East Asian Sea in the last several years.