Vietnam demands ‘immediate withdrawal’ of China ship in disputed sea

Vietnam demands ‘immediate withdrawal’ of China ship in disputed sea

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) in late July 2019 issued a new call for Vietnam to respect the PRC’s claims to the resource-rich region, which have historically been contested by Vietnam, as well as Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Vietnam responded by saying it had sent several messages to the PRC insisting that a Chinese survey ship vacate Vietnamese waters, and it doubled down with new demands for the vessel’s removal.

“Vietnam has had several appropriate diplomatic exchanges … requesting immediate withdrawal from Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told reporters, while refusing to disclose the ship’s precise location.

“Vietnam resolutely and persistently protects our sovereign rights … by peaceful means on the basis of international laws,” Le Thi Thu Hang added.

The ship, owned by the government-run China Geological Survey, started research around the contested Spratly Islands on July 3, 2019, according to the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Before the ship was spotted, a PRC coast guard vessel also patrolled near Vietnamese supply ships in a “threatening manner,” CSIS said.

The PRC has not confirmed the presence of its ships in the area. (Pictured: An aerial view of Southwest Cay, also known as Pugad Island, shows an area controlled by Vietnam and part of the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea.)

The PRC invokes its so-called nine-dash line to justify its rights to the waterway and has previously built up artificial islands as well as installed airstrips and military equipment in the region.

The line runs as far as 2,000 kilometers from the Chinese mainland to within a few hundred kilometers of the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

In 2014, the PRC moved an oil rig into waters claimed by Hanoi, sparking deadly, anti-China protests across Vietnam.

The latest stand-off in the sea prompted a swift rebuke from the United States, which called for an end to the PRC’s “bullying behavior.”

“China’s repeated provocative actions aimed at the offshore oil and gas development of other claimant states threaten regional energy security,” the U.S. State Department said.