A standoff between Vietnam and China over disputed territory in the South China Sea grew worse on May 7 as Vietnam sent naval vessels to confront Chinese ships.
Last weekend, China sent an oil rig into territory within Vietnam’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone, prompting Vietnam to demand its removal.
An unnamed Vietnamese official said that no shots had been fired so far, adding, “Vietnam won't fire unless China fires first,” according to Reuters.
Vietnam claims that on May 7 Chinese vessels tried to ram Vietnamese ships. Chinese ships fired water cannons to repel the Vietnamese, injuring some sailors in the process. “On May 4, Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels,” Tran Duy Hai, a Vietnamese Foreign Ministry official said in Hanoi at a press conference. “Chinese ships, with air support, sought to intimidate Vietnamese vessels. Water cannon was used.”
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Hai said that Vietnam has requested a meeting with the Chinese leadership and said Vietnam would do “everything necessary” to settle the dispute peacefully.
In a separate incident, the Philippines detained a Chinese fishing vessel near the Spratly Islands on May 6. China demanded that the Philippines “make rational explanations” of its actions and “take no more provocative action.”
Regional disagreement over who controls vast swathes of territory in the South China Sea persists because all sides have very different views over where to draw boundaries. Many smaller nations with coastlines on the sea argue that the 200-mile exclusive economic zone spelled out in the Law of the Sea Treaty should delineate borders.
China claims a much broader section of territory based on its “nine-dashed line” principle. Despite there being no basis in international law, China uses this principle to claim territory hundreds of miles from its mainland.
By James Burgess of Oilprice.com
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