Vietnam launches luxury cruise to the hotly contested Spratly islands
Vietnam is offering scores of patriotic citizens the holiday of a lifetime: a cruise to some of Asia's most contested islands, where China has been rapidly building up its military presence.
In a special $800 (£525) promotional offer, 180 Vietnamese travellers will get to see parts of the disputed Spratly archipelago later this month.
In a move likely to stroke its simmer dispute with Beijing over South China Sea sovereignty, the boat trip also offers passengers the chance to take part in night fishing, to visit a lighthouse and to enjoy local seafood.
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Vietnam has launched a 'sovereignty' cruise to the hotly-contested Spratly islands in the South China Sea
The six-day cruise will visit two reefs and two islands in the Spratlys, or Truong Sa in Vietnamese, which is an area that the country has occupied for some time despite rival claims.
High-rollers will be able to choose from VIP hotel rooms and can also fly in on their private helicopters should they so prefer, according to the Ho Chi Minh City government website.
The offer makes little attempt to disguise its political flavour and comes as Vietnam pursues a bolder agenda in pushing its claims in the face of China's own growing assertiveness.
'Travelling to Truong Sa... means the big trip of your life, reviving national pride and citizens' awareness of the scared maritime sovereignty of the country,' the promotion said, reading much like a brochure for a Caribbean holiday.
'Tourists will no longer feel Truong Sa as far away, the blue Truong Sa ocean will be deep in people's hearts.'
The six-day cruise will visit two reefs and two islands in the Spratlys, or Truong Sa in Vietnamese
Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia are currently each competing for jurisdiction of the Spratlys with China
Such a maneouver echoes its intentions to China, against which the country is competing for jurisdiction
The Spratlys make up nine-tenths of the South China Sea, which is also a vital global shipping lane
Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia are currently each competing for jurisdiction of the Spratlys with China, which claims nine-tenths of the South China Sea.
The Sea is a vital global shipping lane with potentially vast energy reserves.
The cruise mirrors those offered by China on ships like its 'Coconut Princess', and illustrates a growing civilian presence in the South China Sea as countries vie to cement their competing claims.
China has been criticised for extensive reclamation work and moves to turn submerged rocks into man-made structures. Last week, the United States said that Beijing had placed mobile artillery systems in contested territory.
China has been criticised for extensive reclamation work and moves to turn submerged rocks into man-made structures
Last week, the United States said that Beijing had placed mobile artillery systems in contested territory
Photos taken earlier this year, show artificial islands being built on the coral reefs in the Spratly islands
Southwest Cay, also known as Pugad Island, is a small piece of the Spratlys currently controlled by Vietnam
After territorial rows broke out again last year, Vietnam's offering will take adventurous passengers night fishing, to visit a lighthouse and to enjoy local seafood
Despite close party-to-party ties with Communist neighbour China and nearly $60billion of annual trade, analysts say Vietnam has taken a harder line since a fresh territorial row erupted last year and now wants to boost diplomatic and military alliances.
Its media ran news last month of the opening of a new school on the Spratlys, and Vietnamese troops stationed there joined counterparts from the Philippines in a soccer match.
The cruise is a trial run ahead of Vietnam's tentative plans to put the Spratlys on its tourism map, including scheduled passenger flights, which could possibly launch this year.
The real coalition goes to war, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Russia, revenge is sweet
…by Gordon Duff and Nahed al Husaini in Damascus
This week, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that their support of Syria will be unlimited. Over the past few weeks Iranian military leaders, both Republican Guard and the Al Quds brigade in particular, have assessed the situation on the ground.
A plan of action has been developed and is being implemented at this time. No other source has this information. Information in the press is fabrication and conjecture. What is known and what can and will be told is here and will be nowhere else.
A message is passed to the Americans and others that have spent years gloating over the suffering of the Syrian people: