Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Hello everyone, welcome back again with us in another episode of Military TV. Today we are going to talk about "Vietnam strengthens its defenses on the Spratly Islands to send a message to the People's Republic of China”. But before we discuss it further, let's start with a question, Why are the Spratly Islands important? The spratly islands are important for economic and strategic reasons. The Spratly area holds potentially significant, but largely unexplored, reserves of oil and natural gas, it is a productive area for world fishing, it is one of the busiest areas of commercial shipping traffic, and surrounding countries would get an extended continental shelf if their claims were recognized. In addition to economic incentives, the Spratlys sit astride major maritime trade routes to Northeast Asia, giving them added significance as positions from which to monitor maritime activity in the South China Sea and to potentially base and project military force from. In 2014, China drew increased international attention due to its dredging activities within the Spratlys, amidst speculation it is planning to further develop its military presence in the area. By improving its defense facilities on the Spratly Islands and conducting a naval exercise nearby, Vietnam is sending a signal to the People's Republic of China that armed engagement between the two over their conflicting claims to the islands would come at a cost. The PRC has long been fortifying artificial islands within the Spratly chain that were designated as “maritime features” before Beijing ordered its military engineers to raise them above sea level through reclamation. As reported by VnExpress online newspaper, Vietnam's Navy conducted combat-readiness drills with its 1,500-ton Quang Trung frigate in Spratly waters in early April 2021. Ka-28 anti-submarine helicopters also participated in the exercise with the Quang Trung, which is equipped with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. Hanoi's enhanced fortifications in the South China Sea island chain in recent months include coastal defense installations, concrete pads and bunkers, administrative buildings and a large tower apparently for communications or signals intelligence, the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reported, over the last two years, “West Reef and Sin Cowe Island have seen the most drastic changes” of all of Vietnam's outposts in the disputed Spratly Islands group, noting that most of the 70 acres of dry land at West Reef is reclaimed land, with a further 26 acres at Sin Cowe Island being similarly reclaimed. The changes include the building of “several coastal defense installations, administrative buildings, concrete pads and bunkers, and a large tower structure presumably for communications of signals intelligence” at West Reef over the past two years. Similar additions have appeared on other Vietnam-controlled parts of the Spratlys, such as Sand Cay, Central Reef and Spratly Island. Vietnam's national legislature declared in 2012 that it has sufficient evidence and a legal basis to assert sovereignty over the Spratlys, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled as unlawful the PRC's claims to an exclusive economic zone around its artificial features in a dispute with the Philippines, which also claims some of the Spratlys. Vietnam's presence on the Spratlys predates that of the PRC by many years, AMTI's director, Greg Poling, told FORUM, and it has built fortifications on natural islands and reclaimed land extending from them. PRC fortifications, while larger, sit on entirely reclaimed land which constitute artificial features. Poling said that Vietnam is focused mainly on making its islands more resilient, survivable and ensuring that it can give China a bloody nose if it comes to that. Keeping its installations supplied is key, therefore deeper harbors and channels for larger vessels have been added, along with helipads on all the islands so they can be resupplied by air to prevent the Chinese from starving them out in a conflict. Vietnam also has built four aircraft hangars on Spratly Island and extended its runway for larger aircraft. So, Hanoi's naval drills and fortifications signal to Beijing that Vietnam is ready to defend its claims. The danger is we really don't know how it is being received. Beijing has been remarkably tone-deaf to the signals being sent by its Southeast Asian neighbors and, as a result, what you have seen is time and again China is undertaking a degree of coerciveness and aggression in the South China Sea that undermines its broader strategy of influence in the region. Notwithstanding the vastly different strategic context Vietnam finds itself situated in today, there is no room for complacency. Vietnam should expect to fight China again if push ever comes to shove. Entertaining this prospect is not far-fetched, if one takes it seriously Beijing's threat in August 2017 to attack Vietnamese forces in disputed waters unless Hanoi were to demand that the Spanish energy firm Repsol stand down from its work in an offshore hydrocarbon block claimed also by China. Hanoi did capitulate eventually, and Repsol stood down. But clearly, Vietnam does not wish to appear weak in front of China. Credibility is at stake, with both domestic and external repercussions for the ruling elite in Hanoi. And by now, after seeing the way ASEAN intramural dynamics play out over many years on the South China Sea disputes, Hanoi would have reached the dire conclusion that the bloc, if there is ever going to be an outright shooting war with China, would not offer a united stance except perhaps to issue an obligatory statement calling upon all sides to cease fighting and negotiate a settlement. Some of the individual ASEAN member states may even overtly take Beijing's side, or just stay neutral. At best Vietnam could rely on ASEAN as a bedrock for post-conflict economic recovery, even though such a prospect is still far from certain considering the bloc's economic interdependence with China and possible economic retaliation by the latter. It is most likely that Vietnam would receive support from multiple major powers in times of a war with China over the South China Sea flashpoint, but not direct military intervention, especially if Beijing elects to keep the clashes localized and well contained to avoid provoking an overwhelming international response. As such, Hanoi could expect those friendly extra regional powers to cheer for it, or at best offer diplomatic condemnation against Beijing, and possibly some form of material and technical aid for its fighting efforts. But not more than that. If that fateful day eventually comes, will the United States flex its muscles with a carrier strike group somewhere close to Chinese shores or near the scene of battle, and will that make any difference to the outcome? Perhaps, but nobody can be sure. Thanks for watching, and as always if you enjoyed this video don't forget to Like, Share, and Subscribe for more awesome videos!