China challenged Australian warships in South China Sea, reports say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

China challenged Australian warships in South China Sea, reports say

Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Toowoomba docked at Saigon port in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on April 19.

(CNN)Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asserted the right of the Australian navy to travel the South China Sea, after local media reported three Australian warships were challenged by the Chinese navy earlier this month.

As the three vessels traversed the hotly contested waters on their way to Vietnam, they were confronted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Friday.
The ABC said that one Australian defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, “insists the exchanges with the Chinese were polite, but ‘robust’.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in London for a meeting of the heads of Commonwealth nations, refused to confirm or deny the report.
“All I can say to you is that Australia asserts and practices its right to freedom of navigation throughout the world’s ocean, including the South China Sea,” he told reporters.
In a statement to CNN, the Australian Defense Department acknowledged the three vessels were in the South China Sea in recent weeks but wouldn’t comment on “operational details” on the ships.
“The Australian Defense Force has maintained a robust program of international engagement with countries in and around the South China Sea for decades,” the statement said. CNN has reached out to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.
The Australian ships are now conducting a three-day goodwill visit in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
While Australian air force jets have been challenged by the Chinese in the past, this was the first time, Carl Thayer told CNN, that he’d heard of any reports of navy vessels being confronted.
“That doesn’t mean it hasn’t occurred … (But) the challenge is political, it’s intimidatory and if you don’t counter challenge then China can make the argument that the international community has acceded to China’s claims,” said Thayer, regional security analyst and emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales.

Australia, China relations in deep chill

The reported confrontation comes at a moment of frosty relations between Beijing and Canberra. Turnbull admitted to the diplomatic chill on April 12.
“There has been a degree of tension in the relationship which has arisen because of criticism in China of our foreign interference laws,” he told local radio station 3AW at the time.
His remarks followed reports in local media that Australian ministers had been denied visas that would have allowed them to attend China’s signature Boao Forum in Hainan province.
The Chinese government has objected strongly to a new set of laws being considered by Australia to tackle interference by foreign nations in their politics.
Although Turnbull stressed that those laws weren’t targeted at any one country, the legislation came after a series of scandals over large donations to Australian politicians by Chinese businessmen.
“I would like to stress hereby again that we hope the Australian side will abandon the cold-war mentality and ideological bias, stop making irresponsible remarks and work with China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in February.

China tightens hold on volatile region

The South China Sea is one of the most hotly contested regions in the world. China claims a huge swathe of territory across the sea, overlapping the claims of Vietnam and the Philippines, among others.
Only last week the Chinese navy held its largest ever drills in the South China Sea, including a huge military parade overseen by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China’s only aircraft carrier the Liaoning took part in the display, launching J-15 fighter jets from the enormous ship’s flight deck.
Speaking from the PLA destroyer Changsha, Xi called for further modernization of China’s military to further his goal of creating a “world-class” force under the Communist Party’s leadership.
To reinforce their claims in the region, China has constructed and militarized a series of artificial islands across the South China Sea, building airfields and radar stations.
The United States regularly conducts Freedom of Navigation Operations close to China’s artificial bases. Last year, Arizona Senator John McCain suggested Australia’s Navy take part alongside the US in those exercises.
“I would not try to tell the Australians what they need to do, but there are exercises where a number of nations join together — we call it RIMPAC [Rim of the Pacific Exercise]— that the Australians participate in. They’re broad naval exercises,” he said during a visit to Australia.

Outrage In Vietnam Over United Airlines Treatment Of 69 yr Old Vietnamese Born Doctor

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

By Mai Nguyen | HANOI

Outrage spread to Vietnam on Wednesday over United Airlines’ handling of a passenger dragged from his seat after it emerged that the 69-year-old U.S. doctor was Vietnamese by birth.

Although United Airlines has no direct flights to Vietnam, there were widespread calls on social media for a boycott after video showed a bloodied David Dao being yanked out of the plane by airport security on Sunday to make way for United employees.

The ire in Vietnam grew quickly after it was reported that Dao’s origins were not in the Southeast Asian country’s old enemy, China, as many had at first assumed.

Vietnamese also fumed at allegations over Dao’s past reported in the United States as irrelevant and possibly racist.

“Watching this makes my blood boil, I’ll never fly United Airlines,” commented Anh Trang Khuya on Facebook, the most widely used social media platform in Vietnam.

Nguyen Khac Huy wrote: “Boycott United!!! This is excessive! Let’s be loving and united, Vietnamese people!”

There was no immediate comment from the government or in state media.

Video showing Dao being pulled from United Airlines Flight 3411 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Sunday went viral and the worldwide backlash hit the airline’s share price and prompted an apology from the company chief executive.

Kentucky’s medical board website shows that a doctor David Dao graduated in 1974 in Ho Chi Minh City – then known as Saigon and the capital of U.S.-backed South Vietnam before its defeat and the reunification of Vietnam under communist rule a year later.

Around that time, Dao left for the United States, according to U.S. media and Vietnamese websites.

Vietnamese media said that Dao was also a songwriter and crooner of soulful ballads – including one about the memory of rain falling in Saigon.

Reports in U.S. media of an offence that had led to Dao losing his medical license in 2003 were dismissed in Vietnam as a probable smear campaign.

“Dr. Dao didn’t do anything wrong on that flight and that’s the main thing,” wrote Clarence Dung Taylor in a post that had more than 4,000 likes.

The attitude to the case shifted dramatically in Vietnam once it was reported that Dao was not from China – an ancient enemy with which Vietnam continues to have a maritime dispute over the South China Sea.

When initial reports had suggested the man being dragged from the plane was Chinese, some Vietnamese had posted strongly unsympathetic comments about him.

“So funny,” wrote Bui Nguyen Trong Nghia. “Now they know he’s Vietnamese, most people stand up to advocate. Whether it’s Vietnamese or Chinese, there’ll be discrimination as we’re Asian.”

(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Robert Birsel)