Vietnam rebukes China, Philippines over South China Sea conduct

May 18, 2023 - 6:59 PM
A ship (top) of the Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of the Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. (Reuters/Nguyen Minh/File Photo)

 Vietnam criticized on Thursday the recent conduct in the South China Sea of a Chinese research ship and the Philippines coast guard, accusing its neighbors of separate actions that were violating its sovereign rights.

Tensions are currently high in contested parts of the South China Sea, one of the world’s most important trade routes and a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce.

Chinese and Vietnamese vessels confronted each other in recent days on multiple occasions as a Chinese research ship moved within Hanoi’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which experts said was likely a survey. Such a survey would usually be considered hostile if conducted without notification.

Asked for comment, Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesperson Pham Thu Hang told a press conference those vessels were “violating the sovereign rights and jurisdictions of Vietnam”, which was taking “appropriate measures” to defend its rights.

China had said that scientific research was a normal activity in areas under Chinese jurisdiction.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory, based on what it says are old maps, including waters that lie within the EEZ of Vietnam and four other Southeast Asian countries.

The Philippines was also rebuked for placing navigational buoys in five areas of its EEZ to assert sovereignty over the hotly disputed Spratly islands, parts of which Vietnam also lays claim to.

Asked about the Philippines’ move, Hang said: “Vietnam strongly opposes all acts violating Vietnam’s sovereign rights.”

—Reporting by Phuong Nguyen and Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Martin Petty