China’s latest move in the South China Sea has further riled up tense atmosphere prevailing in the region.
This time it is Vietnam. Vietnam claims that Chinese seismic survey vehicle Haiyang Dizhi 8 conducted marine surveys in Vietnam’s water.
It further claims that China conducted activities to obstruct Vietnam’s oil and gas exploration at Block 06/1 which lies within Vietnam’s EEZ and CS, where this exploration has taken place for decades. Vietnam has claimed that on July 4, 2019, multiple Chinese vessels escorted Haiyan Dizhi and at a point of time were 35 in number. It is claimed that the main vessel was assisted by a large fleet of Coast Guard, fishing, transport and towing vessels.
As of now, 10 to 12 Chinese vessels are still in the area which is near a joint venture run by PetroVietnam, Russia’s Rosneft and India’s ONGC which is involved in regular oil and gas production from past 17 years.
Vietnam expects India to exert itself on this issue as the matter is being taken very seriously by the Vietnamese government. Such was the intensity of the brush at the sea that Chinese vessels utilised water cannons against Vietnamese vessels. Chinese premier Xi Jinping is expected to visit India in October to have a one-on-one session with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. In this context, it would be interesting to see what sort of response comes from the Ministry of External Affairs in its next press conference on Thursday.
Vietnam has taken up this issue at various forums, but does not want the issue to escalate. The idea is to reclaim the situation without China making it an ego issue. China and Vietnam have a trading relationship worth around 106 billion dollars. Vietnam wants the world to know what is happening in its water, without provoking a larger confrontation with the big neighbour. Vietnam wants it bigger friends like India and others to speak on the issue. India in past too has asserted that rule-based order must be respected.
The nearest location of the seismic survey operation, as per Vietnam, is 36 nautical miles from the Vietnamese baseline. 31 nautical miles from the limits of Vietnam’s 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
As provided for the international law, the UNCLOS 1982 and the Final Award of the Arbitral Tribunal in the Philippines vs China case in 2016, which concluded that features in the Spratly Islands do not generate 200 nautical miles of maritime zones and also rejected China’s nine dash line claim, China has no legal basis to make claim over this area.
China has militarised the South China Sea. Its military drills in the region have become more frequent which puts crowded trading corridor’s peace, stability and security at great risk.
Vietnam wants the world to know what is happening in its water, without provoking a larger confrontation with the big neighbour.