Philippines, Vietnam to Sign Coastguard Deal Risking China’s Ire

The Philippines and Vietnam will agree to strengthen coastguard cooperation during Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s visit to Hanoi next week, authorities said, a move that might irritate China.

The two Southeast Asian nations have rival claims to large portions of the South China Sea, a crucial waterway for fisheries and world trade that China claims nearly entirely.

The two nations will sign a memorandum of understanding on coastguard cooperation, the Philippine Coast Guard said on Thursday.

It is unclear what the deal would involve, but coastguard cooperation is critical to decreasing the possibility of conflicts between fishing vessels that trespass into foreign seas, perhaps easing bilateral territorial disputes.

China, with its vast claims to the South China Sea, tends to view progress in the resolution of border disputes among other claimants with skepticism.

After Vietnam and Indonesia recognised the boundaries of their respective Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) in the South China Sea in December 2022, China’s coastguard repeatedly sailed close to those strategic areas triggering angry reactions from both Jakarta and Hanoi.

China’s response however could be muted in this case because the deal is not about recognition of maritime claims, said Phan Xuan Dung, researcher on Vietnam at the Singapore-based ISEAS think tank.

Marcos will meet Vietnamese leaders on a two-day visit starting on Monday, Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday, noting the countries had close ties in multiple fields including defence and security.

In November, Marcos said the Philippines had approached Vietnam and other neighbours to discuss a separate code of conduct for the South China Sea, another move that would irk China which has been promoting a broader regional pact for years without success.

The two countries are also expected to boost their cooperation on rice supplies, according to a Philippine official, with the Philippines being already the largest market for Vietnam’s exports.

“The two most promising areas of cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam are food security and maritime security,” Alexander Vuving, of the Hawaii-based Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, said.

“But Vietnam is far more cautious than the Philippines about not angering China” on maritime security, he added.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the expected agreement on coastguard cooperation.

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Sydney Okafor

I am so passionate about this my profession as a broadcast journalist and voiceover artists and presently a reporter at TV360 Nigeria

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