Vietnam has accused a Chinese oil-surveying vessel and its coast guard escorts of territorial breaches by widening their activities after entering its exclusive economic zone and operating within offshore blocks for three months.
As of Friday last week, the Haiyang Dizhi 8 has made several passes through the foreign-owned blocks off the coast of central Vietnam after departing from Chinese-controlled Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑島) on Sept. 28, Marine Traffic satellite tracking data showed.
At least two Chinese Coast Guard ships further south maneuvered around a Singaporean-flagged support vessel in an oil block operated by Russia’s Rosneft Oil Co, the data showed.
“The Chinese survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escort vessels continue, and expand their operations within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, thus seriously violating Vietnam’s sovereign rights,” Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said at a briefing in Hanoi yesterday.
Tensions between China and Vietnam have been on the rise since July, when the Chinese state-owned surveyor first began studying the seabed of the southern block in the disputed South China Sea operated by Rosneft.
China has warned Vietnam to abandon exploration projects with foreign companies that it says threaten its sovereignty.
State-owned Vietnam Oil & Gas Group last year ordered Spain’s Repsol to halt work on a project off Vietnam’s southern coast, costing the company and its partners as much as US$200 million.
Vietnam has become increasingly isolated in its efforts to push back against China, which is nearing a deal with the Philippines for joint energy exploration in a contested area of the sea and has just set up one-on-one talks with Malaysia to settle disputes.
“Once again, Vietnam demands that China immediately cease its serious violations, withdraw all of its vessels from Vietnam’s maritime zones and desist from repeating similar violations,” Hang said.