World Bulletin / News Desk
Vietnam is arming its expanding submarine fleet with land attack missiles that could be capable of reaching Chinese coastal cities, a choice of weapon likely to be seen as provocative by China in the ongoing South China Sea dispute.
The independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recently updated data on its website to show Vietnam's acquisition of the Russian-made land attack variant of the Klub missile for its state-of-the-art Kilo attack submarines.
SIPRI arms researcher Siemon Wezeman said the entry was based on an earlier but little-noticed filing Vietnammade last year to the United Nations' register of conventional arms.
Regional military attaches and analysts see the missiles as a further sign of Vietnam's determination to counter the rise of China's military and part of a broader trend of Asian countries re-arming amid rising territorial tensions.
The choice of weapon is a more assertive one than the anti-shipping missiles Vietnam was expected to obtain.
While those would potentially target Chinese ships and submarines in the South China Sea, the land attack weapons are capable of precision strikes at a range of 300 kilometres, making China's coastal cities potential targets in any conflict.
Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnam's military at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said the move was a "massive shift" beyond more routine anti-ship tactics.
"They've given themselves a much more powerful deterrent that complicates China's strategic calculations," he said, adding he was surprised by the move.
The Vietnamese defence and foreign ministries have yet to respond to questions submitted by Reuters. Vietnamese military officials have previously described Vietnam's arms build-up, including the submarine purchases, as defensive.
Moscow-based Almaz-Antey, parent company of the missiles' manufacturer Novator, declined to comment on any weapon sales to Vietnam.Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Nisan 2015, 08:23