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Japan-Vietnam Build Defense against China Military to Resist Expansion

Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya and his Vietnamese counterpart, Ngo Xuan Lich, met May 3 to “advance cooperation” on maritime security, Tokyo-based NHK television online said

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Japan's Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya answers a reporter's question during a meeting with Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan at the Pentagon, April 19, 2019, in Washington. VOA

Japan is helping Vietnam build a defense against the larger, more militarily powerful China as Vietnam says Beijing’s forces are occupying more than their legal share of the South China Sea.

Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya and his Vietnamese counterpart, Ngo Xuan Lich, met May 3 to “advance cooperation” on maritime security, Tokyo-based NHK television online said.

In October, the ministers met in Tokyo to discuss issues surrounding the South China Sea. They signed a “defense cooperation and exchange” memorandum that prescribed regular vice ministerial-level talks, the Japanese defense ministry website says.

Japan has been jousting with China over sovereignty in parts of the East China Sea, including a chain of uninhabited islets coveted by fishing fleets.

“Essentially there is an arc of anxiety stretching from New Delhi to Canberra and Jakarta and Hanoi and Tokyo,” said Jeffrey Kingston, history instructor at Temple University, Japan Campus. “So, I think that perhaps the rhetoric is aimed at signaling that there are collective, shared concerns that are leading towards a collective response.”

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FILE – Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich, center, talks to then-Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne at the two-day ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting, Oct. 24, 2017, north of Manila, Philippines. VOA

Japan-Vietnam exchanges

An agreement between the two countries opened the way for more Japanese ports of call in Vietnam, as well as technical cooperation on defense equipment for Vietnamese maritime surveillance, NHK reported.

It’s unclear how much Japan will donate to Vietnam directly, Kingston said. Japan’s public generally doesn’t support a more “assertive strategic” role for their government, he added, though a lot of people feel a “good vibe” toward Vietnam compared to China. Japanese laws also limit arms sales to other countries.

Japan could set up military exchanges, hold strategic dialogue and offer “naval defense equipment,” said Murray Hiebert, deputy director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“Vietnam is looking to Japan as a hedge as China militarizes the South China Sea, puts more pressure on Vietnam in their areas of dispute and presses Hanoi to abandon oil exploration activities, including on Vietnam’s continental shelf,” Hiebert said.

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South China Sea Territorial Claims. VOA

Sino-Vietnamese spats

Beijing claims about 90% of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, stretching from the island of Borneo north to Hong Kong.

China and Vietnam clashed there in 1974 and in 1988. Five years ago, the two sides rammed each other’s boats over the positioning of a Chinese oil rig in waters that Vietnam claims. The incident touched off deadly anti-China rioting in Vietnam. The two countries dispute undersea gas-exploration tracts as well as the Paracel Islands, which China now controls.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also claim sea tracts that China calls its own. Those governments value the waterway for its fisheries and undersea fuel reserves.

China raised alarms around Southeast Asia after 2010 by building up tiny islets for defense installations.

Japan began to step up support of its own interests around Asia. In 2017, an alliance including Japan, the United States, India and Australia began calling for China to leave the sea open for international use and increasing relations in Southeast Asia.

“The Japanese want to support the Vietnamese claims, but they don’t want to do it militarily,” said Stephen Nagy, senior associate politics and international studies professor at International Christian University in Tokyo. “What they’d rather do is build capacity, build interoperability and build a coalition of states that will stand by and try to enforce maritime law in the South China Sea.”

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Passengers crowd check-in counters at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 29, 2016. VOA

Evolving friendship

Japanese ties with Vietnam started more than two decades ago when investors took advantage of the country’s low wages. Japanese automakers and other investors launched 3,320 projects in Vietnam worth a combined registered capital of $42.5 billion as of 2016.

Partly to support its industry and partly to offset Chinese economic influence in Southeast Asia, Japan now funds infrastructure projects in Vietnam.

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A Japanese loan built the airport terminal in Hanoi, and Japanese aid funded the subway system being constructed in Ho Chi Minh City. Japanese official development aid to Vietnam had totaled 2.8 trillion yen ($25.5 billion) by 2016.

“I think these (military) actions expand the original economic field into the political field,” said Tai Wan-ping, Southeast Asia-specialized international business professor at Cheng Shiu University in Taiwan. “Japan’s military performance in Southeast Asia wasn’t proactive in the past.” (VOA)

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Chinese Military Benefits from Google’s Work, Says US General

"We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is that indirect benefit," says US General

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FILE - The Chinese flag is seen near the Google sign at the Google china headquarters in Beijing, China. VOA

The United States’ top general said on Thursday that the Chinese military was benefiting from the work Alphabet Inc’s Google was doing in China, where the technology giant has long sought to have a bigger presence.

“The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is that indirect benefit,” he said.

“Frankly, ‘indirect’ may be not a full characterization of the way it really is, it is more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.”

Last year Google said it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project.

In June, Google said it would not renew a contract to help the U.S. military analyze aerial drone imagery when it expires, as the company sought to defuse an internal uproar over the deal.

At the same time, Google said it has “no plans” to relaunch a search engine in China, though it is continuing to study the idea.

During the hearing, Republican Senator Josh Hawley sharply criticized the tech company, referring to it as “a supposedly American company.”

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FILE – Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a hearing of a Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Technology companies have recently been a favorite target of many members of the U.S. Congress, who have criticized them over a wide range of issues such as privacy, work in China and allowing foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

Lawmakers and Google employees have raised concerns the company would comply with China’s internet censorship and surveillance policies if it re-enters the Asian nation’s search engine market.

ALSO READ: US Probing Facebook Data Deals With Tech Firms: Report

Asked about Dunford’s comments, Google referred to previous statements.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has previously said the company has invested in China for years and plans to continue to do so, but that the company also was continuing to work with the U.S. government on projects in health care, cybersecurity and other fields. (VOA)