Vietnam denounced intrusions into its territorial waters by Chinese survey and Coast Guard vessels at an ASEAN meeting in Bangkok this week, with Vietnam’s representative calling Beijing’s actions “illegal” and a threat to Vietnam’s sovereignty.
Speaking on Wednesday at a meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Vietnamese foreign minister Pham Binh Minh demanded an end to what he called China’s “unilateral actions including militarization [and] increasing military exercises” in the South China Sea, the VNexpress reported on Aug. 1.
In his remarks, Minh noted with particular concern the recent “activities of Chinese oil survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escorts” in waters claimed by Vietnam as part of its exclusive economic zone, calling their recent movements a violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty and jurisdiction under the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
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, with Chinese Coast Guard ships following in support, according to a report by the Washington-based Center For Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS).
At one point, China’s survey intruded into an offshore oil block licensed by Vietnam to a Spanish firm, C4ADS said.
A Vietnamese fishermen’s group on Monday also upbraided China for 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.
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.
'Ways to push back'
In a statement on Wednesday, four members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations meanwhile urged U.S. delegates to the meetings in Bangkok to identify “concrete ways to push back on China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea.”
“Without a stronger rebuke of its behavior, China will continue to act with impunity” in the region, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said in the statement, which was also signed by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.)
Speaking in Bangkok, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also voiced strong concern on Thursday over China’s growing impact on Southeast Asia’s environment along the Mekong River, with what he called “a spree of upstream dam building” concentrating Beijing’s control over water flows downstream.
“The river has been at its lowest levels in a decade—a problem linked to China’s decision to shut off water upstream,” Pompeo said, speaking at an ASEAN ministerial meeting of the Lower Mekong Initiative.
China also operates river patrols in stretches of the Mekong outside its own territory and has plans to blast and dredge riverbeds, further damaging the Mekong’s natural flow, and criminal groups linked to Chinese economic interests along the Mekong now use the river to traffic drugs, wildlife, “and even human beings,” Pompeo said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.