Weeks after a tense standoff between Vietnam and the Chinese military in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), another Chinese survey vessel was spotted inching towards Vietnam’s coastline on Saturday, August 24.
Data from a Marine Traffic, a website that tracks vessel movements revealed that the Chinese ship surveyed Vietnam’s EEZ guided by four ships and around 102 kilometres southeast of Vietnam’s Phu Quy island and 185 kilometres from the Phan Thiet city, reported Reuters.
The recent “survey” by China comes a month after Haiyang Dizhi 8 vessel entered the EEZ and conducted weeks-long “seismic survey” that triggered tensions between Vietnam and China. The vessel left Vietnamese waters but returned back to the disputed Spratly Islands last week.
It is believed that the Chinese deployed the survey ships to block Vietnam’s joint gas and oil exploration with Russian energy firm Rosneft.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry has not yet responded to the movement.
Vietnam and Australia have voiced “serious concerns” about military and land reclamation developments in the South China Sea at a meeting in Hanoi on Friday. The joint statement describing “disruptive activities” to oil and gas projects in the disputed region did not explicitly mention China.
However, Vietnam demanded China withdraw its vessels including the survey ships from the disputed Vietnam-controlled Spratly Islands, which is also claimed by China.
Relations between Vietnam and China have deteriorated over a dispute over the “nine-dash line,” a large expanse of land over the East Sea that includes Vietnam’s energy-rich waters, particularly oil, in its continental shelf and also offer strategic leverage to the world sea trade route.
The United States on Thursday said that China’s interests in oil and gas activities through deployed vessels in the disputed waters in Vietnam was an “an escalation by Beijing in its efforts to intimidate other claimants out of developing resources in the South China Sea”.
The State Department said that China’s actions not only undermine regional peace and security but also blocks economic access to Southeast Asian states on an estimated $2.5 trillion in unexploited hydrocarbon resources.
China agreed that the survey ship was deployed to block Vietnam’s gas and oil exploration activities but said that the vessel was operating in its own sovereign waters.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang responded to the Vietnam issue on Friday and said, “China calls on relevant parties to respect China’s sovereignty … and work with China to maintain harmony and tranquillity of the waters.”
Shuang also slammed remarks made by the US and accused the country of ulterior motives and “sowing division”. “The aim is to bring chaos to the situation in the South China Sea and damage regional peace and stability. China is resolutely opposed to this,” he said.