HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnamese and Chinese language ships have been embroiled in a weeks-long standoff close to an offshore oil block in disputed waters of the South China Sea, which fall inside Vietnam’s unique financial zone, two Washington-based think-tanks mentioned on Wednesday.
FILE PHOTO: Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (2nd L, entrance) and Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh (2nd R, entrance) speaks with sailors of Coast Guard Drive on subject by way of video name throughout their go to to Coast Guard Command in Hanoi, Vietnam July 11, 2019. Thong Nhat/VNA by way of REUTERS.
China’s U-shaped “nine-dash line” marks an enormous expanse of the South China Sea that it claims, together with giant swathes of Vietnam’s continental shelf the place it has awarded oil concessions.
The Haiyang Dizhi eight, a ship operated by the China Geological Survey, on Monday accomplished a 12-day survey of waters close to the disputed Spratly Islands, in line with separate stories by the Heart for Strategic and Worldwide Research (CSIS) and the Heart for Superior Protection Research (C4ADS)
One of many oil blocks it surveyed is licensed by Vietnam to Spanish power agency Repsol (REP.MC), which was pressured final 12 months and in 2017 to stop operations in Vietnamese waters due to stress from China.
Because the Haiyang Dizhi eight carried out its survey, 9 Vietnamese vessels carefully adopted it. The Chinese language ship was escorted by three China Coast Guard vessels, in line with information from Winward Maritime, compiled by C4ADS.
In a separate incident days earlier, the China Coast Guard ship Haijing 35111 maneuvered in what CSIS described as a “threatening method” towards Vietnamese vessels servicing a Japanese-owned oil rig, the Hakuryu-5, leased by Russian state oil agency Rosneft (ROSN.MM) in Vietnam’s Block 06.1, 370 km (230 miles) southeast of Vietnam.
That block is throughout the space outlined by China’s “nine-dash line”. A collection of dashes on Chinese language maps, the road just isn’t steady, making China’s claims usually ambiguous.
Final 12 months, Reuters completely reported that Rosneft Vietnam BV, a unit of Rosneft, was involved that its drilling in Block 06.1 would upset China.
“On July 2 the vessels had been leaving the Hakuryu-5 when the 35111 maneuvered between them at excessive pace, passing inside 100 meters of every ship and fewer than half a nautical mile from the rig,” CSIS mentioned in its report.
It was not clear on Wednesday if any Chinese language ships had been nonetheless difficult the Rosneft rig.
In 2014, rigidity between Vietnam and China rose to its highest ranges in many years when a Chinese language oil rig began drilling in Vietnamese waters. The incident triggered boat rammings by each side and anti-China riots in Vietnam.
‘READY TO FIGHT’
In response to stories of this month’s standoff, which first emerged on social media, Chinese language overseas ministry spokesman Geng Shuang mentioned on July 12 that China’s place on the South China Sea was “clear and constant”.
“China resolutely safeguards its sovereignty within the South China Sea and maritime rights, and on the similar time upholds controlling disputes with related international locations by way of negotiations and consultations,” Geng mentioned, with out elaborating.
On Tuesday, Vietnam’s overseas ministry launched an announcement in response to unspecified “current developments” within the South China Sea.
“With out Vietnam’s permission, all actions undertaken by overseas events in Vietnamese waters don’t have any authorized impact, and represent encroachments in Vietnamese waters, and violations of worldwide legislation,” overseas ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Grasp mentioned.
Neither statements confirmed or elaborated on the standoff.
Neither Rosneft nor Repsol instantly responded to an emailed request from Reuters for remark.
In a brand new assertion on Wednesday, China’s overseas ministry spokesman Geng acknowledged that there had been an incident with Vietnam.
“We hope the Vietnam facet can earnestly respect China’s sovereignty, rights, and jurisdiction over the related waters, and never take any actions that would complicate the scenario,” Geng instructed an everyday information convention.
On July 11, as China was conducting its survey of the blocks, Vietnam’s prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, visited the headquarters of the Vietnam Coast Guard in Hanoi.
State media didn’t point out the incident, however confirmed Phuc talking to sailors on board vessels by way of a video hyperlink.
Phuc instructed the sailors to “keep vigilant and able to combat” and to pay attention to “unpredictable developments”, the Vietnam Coast Guard mentioned in an announcement on its web site.
On the identical day, Vietnam’s nationwide meeting chairwoman, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, met her Chinese language counterpart, Li Zhanshu, in Beijing, China’s Xinhua information company reported.
The 2 officers agreed to “collectively safeguard peace and stability at sea”, Xinhua mentioned.
Reporting by James Pearson and Khanh Vu; Extra reporting by Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina in Beijing; Modifying by Robert Birsel