A Vietnamese fishermen’s group blasted China this week for what it called Beijing’s intrusion into Vietnamese waters in the South China Sea, urging Hanoi at the same time to take a stronger line to defend Vietnam’s interests.
In a statement Monday, the Vietnam Fisheries Society called on Vietnam’s leaders “to protest more strongly against China’s activities” in an offshore area where China is surveying for oil, Reuters news agency reported on July 30.
“Such actions impede fishing activities of fishermen in [Vietnam’s] southeastern and south central regions,” the fishermen’s group said, adding that China should immediately withdraw its oil survey vessels and escort ships from Vietnamese waters, according to a translation of the statement reported by the vnexpress news service.
On July 15, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, a ship operated by the China Geological Survey, completed a 12-day survey of waters near the disputed Spratley Islands, according to a recent report by the Washington-based Center for Advance Defense Studies (C4ADS).
Nine Vietnamese vessels closely followed Chinese Coast Guard ships supporting the survey, which included an oil block licensed by Vietnam to a Spanish firm, C4ADS said in its report.
And on July 2, a Chinese ship sailed in a threatening manner toward Vietnamese vessels servicing a Japanese oil rig about 230 miles southeast of Vietnam, maneuvering between the Vietnamese ships at a high rate of speed, according to another group, the Washington-based Center for International and Strategic Studies.
Both incidents took place in disputed waters of the South China Sea that fall within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, the two think tanks said.
China's aggressive claims
China has aggressively asserted claims to the South China Sea, which Vietnam refers to as the East Sea, based on its so-called “nine-dash” demarcation line that encompasses some 90 percent of its waters, including territory claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore.
In a letter sent on Monday to U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, four U.S. lawmakers meanwhile called on the U.S. to address “China’s aggressive and expansionist behavior in the South China Sea” at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this week in Bangkok.
“A South China Sea where international law is respected, freedom of navigation is ensured, commerce flows freely, multilateral regional organizations are central, and regional countries are not subject to coercion is crucial to America’s interests in the Indo-Pacific,” said the letter signed by Senators Patrick Leahy, Bob Menendez, Ed Markey, and Brian Schatz.
“It is not too late to hold China to account for its behavior, and to deter further Chinese aggression in the maritime domain,” the letter read.
Writing in a separate statement on July 26, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot L. Engel called China's movements in the South China Sea "a disturbing demonstration of a country openly flouting international law."
"I stand with Vietnam and our regional partners in condemning this aggression," Engel said.
"I call on China to immediately withdraw any and all ships from the territorial waters of its neighbors, and to put an end to these illegal bullying tactics."
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.