In the ongoing dispute over the Spratly Islands claimed by China and Vietnam, the latest development is that China is opening up 3G services on the islands, not only to Chinese soldiers but also for the country’s fishermen.
The development will be yet another drop of lemon in the souring of Sino-Vietnamese relations in the past year. The Vietnamese government even voiced its complaint on nguyentandung.org, the Vietnamese Prime Minister’s website. The island disputes recently ignited with anti-China protests in May 2011 after Chinese patrol boats attacked two Vietnamese oil exploration ships near the Spratly Islands.
Chinese soldiers and fishermen will now be able to text message, call, and chat online with family back home over the new 3G network. This upgrade to 3G from regular cellular coverage (started in 2011) and the recent 3G network in the disputed Paracel Islands in July 2012 signals a more permanent Chinese presence on the rocky outposts.
Amid China’s escalating 3G and infrastructure support for the islands, and other points of contention between the two neighbors, my question is this: Have Vietnamese telcos provided 3G to Vietnamese citizens living on those same islands? If not, Vietnam is falling behind in the race for an administrative claim over the islands. Vietnam has had cellular coverage on the Spratly Islands since 2006 but word on the street is there’s no 3G yet.
This news comes just a couple of weeks after a Chinese computer game was banned in Vietnam for showing the contested islands as being Chinese in the in-game maps.
The Spratly Islands are claimed by six different countries in total, including Brunei, the People’s Republic of China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.