Vietnam has asked Beijing to show restraint in the South China Sea next year after a Chinese oil drill-ship and its naval escorts spent months operating uninvited within the Vietnamese exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Vietnam takes the rotating Asean chair next year.
“I hope that during our chairmanship, China will show restraint and refrain from these activities,” Vietnamese deputy foreign minister Nguyen Quoc Dung told the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “What China did is very alarming and also kind of threatening not only Vietnam but also other countries that see the potential of being threatened in the future.”
China’s “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea claims about 80 per cent of the disputed waters, including territory recognised as belonging to Asean members Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei. Laos and Cambodia, which are China’s closest Asean allies, have historically opposed joint resolutions by the bloc on the issue.
Dung said other Asean members did not support Beijing’s aims in the South China Sea but they just did not protest as vocally as Vietnam.
China has taken offence that Malaysia filed a submission with the UN last week seeking to establish the extent of the country’s continental shelf.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea empowers any nation to claim an EEZ up to 200 nautical miles from its shoreline.
Malaysia’s December 12 submission also said there were overlapping claims to be decided beyond the EEZ.
China’s diplomatic note to the UN said the Malaysian declaration “seriously infringed on China’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea”.
Malaysia and Vietnam made a joint submission in 2009 to define their continental shelves in the South China Sea’s southern areas.
The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf said the recent Malaysian submission would be considered in New York in 2021.
Japan’s defence minister, Taro Kono, has criticised Chinese actions in the South China Sea ahead of a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe. “China is engaging in unilateral and coercive attempts to alter the status quo based on its own assertions that are incompatible with the existing international order,” Kono told the Doha Forum in Qatar.
He said Japan was “concerned about China’s rapid enhancement of its military power without transparency, including its nuclear and missile capabilities”, according to broadcaster NHK. “The rule of law, which is of critical importance to global stability and security, is a value shared by the international community, including China.”
The US is deploying increasing numbers of vessels in the region. Picture credit: US Navy