Image source: Wikipedia
A submarine can be seen in the middle pier at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. Image source: Google Maps

Vietnam is preparing to deploy the first of its six Kilo-class submarines from Russia into the disputed islands in the South China Sea against China’s endless territorial expansion in the region.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, at least one submarine has “begun patrolling disputed waters of the South China Sea, as deterrents to China’s 10 times-bigger navy,” citing officials from Vietnam.

Vietnam has only four of the six submarines purchased from Russia, the fifth is scheduled to arrive early this year. News of Vietnamese build up in the Cam Ranh Bay comes as China successfully made three landings on a man-made island in the Fiery Cross Reef that prompts criticism from both Vietnam and the Philippines.

“This is a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty, threatening peace and regional stability, threatening security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea,” Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh told reporters.

A professor from Australia’s Defense Force Academy, Carlyle Thayer is quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as saying:

“These weapons systems should enable Vietnam to make it extremely costly for China to conduct maritime operations within a 200 to 300-nautical-mile band of water along Vietnam’s coast, from the Vietnam-China border in the north-east to around Da Nang in central Vietnam, if not further south.”

Vietnam People’s Navy fleet and their stations. Source: Wikipedia

It seems to be Vietnam’s objective when their government signed a contract with Russia to purchase new  submarines. Reuters wrote in a report that Vietnam’s military had begun focusing on “high combat readiness” against China — and that military officials were concerned that a military conflict with China is unavoidable, “We don’t want to have a conflict with China and we must put faith in our policy of diplomacy, but we know we must be ready for the worst,” a senior official said.

See also: US Navy’s fast-attack submarine arrives in Subic

The Philippines also protests China’s recent test flights in the South China Sea, “We are very concerned about the fact that China had already flown their flights to Fiery Cross Reef,” Philippines’ foreign secretary, Albert del Rosario, said Thursday, giving a warning that China may eventually “take a position that an air defence identification zone could be imposed.”

Meanwhile, a report from a Filipino protest group called ‘Kalayaan Atin Ito,’ that recently visited Thitu Island (Pag-asa Island), suggests that China is building its own submarine harbor on Mischief Reef in the Spratlys. The Kalayaan Atin Ito movement said in a statement Wednesday:

“Palawan is just 135 nautical miles away from the Panganiban Reef, which is being developed by China into a submarine harbor. … This evil project does not concern the Filipino alone but the entire humanity, including the peace-loving Chinese people.”

Kalayaan Atin Ito youth group visited Thitu Island (Pag-asa Island) December, last week, as a “freedom mission” to protect the Philippines’ sovereignty against China. -John Esconde