| HANOI, June 19
HANOI, June 19 Several dozen Vietnamese
protested in front of the Chinese embassy and marched through
Hanoi for the third Sunday running after Beijing sent one of its
biggest maritime patrol ships into the disputed waters of the
South China Sea.
The demonstration comes amid the biggest flare-up in tension
in years over competing sovereignty claims in the sea, home to
key shipping lanes and fisheries and potentially large deposits
of oil and gas.
Neither Vietnam nor China has shown much willingness in the
past month of strained relations to back down, with both staging
military exercises and accusing the other of sovereignty
Last week, China sent the Haixun 31, which official media
said was one of two maritime patrol ships the same size, to
monitor shipping, carry out surveying, inspect oil wells and
"protect maritime security" in the sea en route to
About 40 protesters chanted slogans including "Oppose China!
Down with China!" under a statue of the Russian Communist
revolutionary Lenin in a park across from the Chinese Embassy
for about a half hour. Police then forced them to leave,
announcing that their protest had been heard and that staying
could "complicate" diplomacy.
"We protest out of frustration and to show that we should
not be soft and weak when it comes to China," said Le Mai Dau, a
retired officer of Ministry of Transportation.
With police blocking traffic, the protesters marched to the
centre of town waving banners and flags, singing patriotic songs
and chanting. The crowd swelled to about 100 along the way.
"We have defended our country numerous times and for many
years -- against the Mongols, against the Qing Dynasty, against
the French, against the Americans, against the Chinese. If
anyone at all tries to invade us we will all stand up to defend
our motherland," said protester Dang Bich Phuong.
Political protests are rare in Vietnam and the relationship
with China is considered the most sensitive. But diplomats and
political analysts say Vietnamese policymakers have become
increasingly frustrated by China's growing assertiveness in the
South China Sea.
The latest bout of tensions escalated after the Vietnamese
government made public an incident in late May in which it said
a Chinese vessel intentionally cut submerged cables in use by a
Vietnamese seismic survey ship within Vietnam's 200 nautical
mile special maritime economic zone.
"That crossed a line for them," said a diplomat who declined
to be identified.
Incidents of harassment between claimants to the South China
Sea are not uncommon. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and
Taiwan also hae claims.
On Friday in Washington, Vietnamese and U.S. officials
committed to strengthening their relationship and discussed
maritime security and the South China Sea during the fourth
political, security and defence dialogue.
"We do not tolerate a kind of behaviour from China of saying
one thing and doing the opposite," said Le Dung, a 42-year-old
electrical engineer who took part in Sunday's protest in Hanoi.
"We want the Vietnamese government to invite international
observers to come to the East Sea (South China Sea) so the whole
world can see that Vietnam is acting within the law and in
accordance to international law, so that China must also abide
to the law and international law."
(Additional reporting by Reuters TV; Editing by Nick Macfie)