VIETNAM launched a stunning attack at Beijing as it accused a Chinese oil-surveying vessel of territorial violations, worsening the already bitter tension between the two nations over the South China Sea.
Hanoi said the vessel and its coastguard escorts had widened its activities by entering Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. On Friday, Beijing’s Haiyang Dizhi 8 made numerous passes through the disputed waters, according to Marine Traffic satellite tracking data. South China Morning Post reports that at least two coast guard ships were spotted manoeuvring around a Singaporean-flagged support boat in an oil block.
Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said: “The Chinese survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escort vessels continue, and expand their operations within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, thus seriously violating Vietnam’s sovereign rights.”
“Once again, Vietnam demands that China immediately cease its serious violations, withdraw all of its vessels from Vietnam’s maritime zones and desist from repeating similar violations.”
Vietnam has a huge board with China.
China and Vietnam have been embroiled in a bitter spat, with tensions escalating since July.
The feud rose after the Chinese state-owned surveyor first started following and working on seabed of the South China Sea.
It comes as Beijing has begun deploying coastguard ships in the highly disputed South China Sea, as it attempts to make itself visible to rivals.
Experts believe the move from China is an attempt to assert its dominance in the region.
Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has released a report which claims 14 vessels have been identified as Chinese ships.
It comes as Beijing has begun deploying coastguard ships in the highly disputed South China Sea (Image: GETTY)
They were discovered due to the broadcast of automatic identification system (AIS) signals while out in the Luconia Shoals, Second Thomas Shoal and the Scarborough Shoal over the past year.
The report said: “There don’t appear to be any other contested areas where China Coast Guard presence is so persistent, and where China clearly wants regional counterparts to know they are present.
“Beijing has evidently taken a special interest in Luconia, Second Thomas and Scarborough shoals.
“It seems to be wagering that if it can maintain a semi-permanent CCG presence for long enough, regional states will eventually accede to its de facto control of those areas.
“And if that strategy succeeds at Luconia and Second Thomas (as it arguably already has at Scarborough), it will serve as a compelling blueprint for extending Chinese administration across other reefs and shoals.”
It added: “This makes them ideal for operations that might involve threatening collisions and, if necessary, shouldering other vessels to drive them away without using lethal force.”
Reports suggest that the ships are not armed.
They do have water cannons and small weapons, but they are believed to be bigger than that of its South China Sea rivals.
South China Sea
By ensuring the vessels are deployed, China is able to become a visible presence at sites where it claims to have sovereignty but in reality has no permanent fixtures there.
It comes after the UK said it would send new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to the volatile South China Sea region.
This followed France’s announcement it had sent its Frigate, Dixmude, to the Spratly islands, which are a contested group of islands within the Nine Dash Line.
China hit back at the news of the European nations ordering key ships in their fleets to sail to the disputed sea area.
Major General Su Guanghui, China’s defence attaché to Britain last week said: “If the US and UK join hands in a challenge or violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, that would be hostile action.”