China and Vietnam could be headed for their first armed conflict since 1979 with signs of heightened military readiness in China, Apple Daily reported Monday.
The report cited online commentators as saying troops from the People’s Liberation Army were moving toward the China-Vietnam border in both the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Yunnan province.
A large convoy of military vehicles and tanks was seen on highways in the Yunnan capital Kunming and unidentified sources said the Guangzhou military region’s air force division and the navy’s South China Sea fleet are on standby.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Sunday that some official bilateral exchange programs had been suspended because deadly outbreaks of violence in Vietnam against Chinese-owned businesses had created unfavorable conditions for cooperation.
The violence began after China erected an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
The Vietnam News Agency quoted the country’s deputy chief of fisheries inspection as saying that China had deployed more patrol boats and missile-equipped ships around the rig to protect fishing boats.
But in Vietnam, anti-China demonstrations in major cities Sunday were smaller than expected after the government warned it would closely monitor the gatherings and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung appealed to the public through text messages to refrain from protests. About 400 people gathered in front of China’s Consulate General in Hanoi Sunday morning but were later dispersed, according to Ming Pao Daily.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Business Association Vietnam said plants run by Hong Kong firms might resume operations as soon as Monday or Tuesday.
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