Vietnam: President urges restraint amid maritime tensions with PRC

Vietnam: President urges restraint amid maritime tensions with PRC

Vietnamese President and Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in October 2019 called for restraint in the disputed South China Sea amid a tense monthslong standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese ships, state media reported.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) claims almost all of the energy-rich waters, but neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Tension escalated when the PRC dispatched a research ship to conduct an energy survey in waters controlled by Vietnam in early July 2019.

“On the subject of foreign policy, including the East Sea issue, the General Secretary stressed the importance of maintaining a peaceful and stable environment, and resolutely fighting to protect Vietnam’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the state-run Voice of Vietnam (VOV) said on its website in October 2019. The South China Sea is known as the East Sea in Vietnam.

Vietnam has good relations with China but should “never compromise” on its sovereignty and territorial integrity, VOV quoted Trong as saying. (Pictured: A Vietnam Coast Guard boat, used to patrol the South China Sea, is docked in Hanoi.)

The Chinese vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, continued its survey in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone through late October 2019, under escort from at least three Chinese ships, according to data from Marine Traffic, a website that tracks vessel movements.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry repeatedly accused the vessel and its escorts of violating its sovereignty and demanded that the PRC remove its ships from the area, but it did not remove the ships for more than three months. In August 2019, police broke up a brief protest outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi over the survey vessel. Finally on October 24, the research vessel and its escorts left Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and headed toward China, according to the Maritime Traffic website.

Trong has presided over a widespread crackdown on corruption in the Southeast Asian country that has seen several high-ranking ministers and politicians, including one Politburo member, sent to prison on charges ranging from embezzlement to economic mismanagement. Reuters