Chinese ship inches closer to Vietnam coastline amid South China Sea tensions

Reuters  | Aug 24, 2019 13:40

Chinese ship inches closer to Vietnam coastline amid South China Sea tensions

By Khanh Vu
HANOI, Aug 24 (Reuters) - A Chinese survey vessel on
Saturday extended its activities to an area closer to Vietnam's
coastline, ship tracking data showed, after the United States
and Australia expressed concern about China's actions in the
disputed waterways.
The Haiyang Dizhi 8 vessel first entered Vietnam's exclusive
economic zone (EEZ) early last month where it began a weeks-long
seismic survey, triggering a tense standoff between military and
coastguard vessels from Vietnam and China.
The Chinese vessel continued to survey Vietnam's EEZ on
Saturday under escort from at least four ships and was around
102 kilometres (63 miles) southeast of Vietnam's Phu Quy island
and 185 kilometres (115 miles) from the beaches of the southern
city of Phan Thiet, according to data from Marine Traffic, a
website that tracks vessel movements.
The Chinese vessel group was followed by at least two
Vietnamese naval vessels, according to the data.
Vietnam's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a
request from Reuters for comment.
A country's EEZ typically extends up to 200 nautical miles
(370 kilometres or 230 miles) from its coastline, according to
an international UN treaty. That country has sovereign rights to
exploit any natural resources within that area, according to the
agreement.
Vietnam and China have for years been embroiled in a dispute
over the potentially energy-rich stretch of waters and a busy
shipping lane in the South China Sea.
China's unilaterally declared “nine-dash line” marks a vast,
U-shaped, expanse of the South China Sea that it claims,
including large swathes of Vietnam's continental shelf where it
has awarded oil concessions.
On Friday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and
his Australian counterpart expressed their concern about China's
activities in the South China Sea, known in Vietnam as the East
Sea. Earlier in the week, the United States said it was deeply
concerned about China's interference in oil and gas activities
in waters claimed by Vietnam, and that the deployment of the
vessels was "an escalation by Beijing in its efforts to
intimidate other claimants out of developing resources in the
South China Sea" Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, in response
to the U.S. statement, said Washington was "sowing division and
had ulterior motives".
"The aim is to bring chaos to the situation in the South
China Sea and damage regional peace and stability. China is
resolutely opposed to this," Geng told a daily news briefing on
Friday.

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