Vietnamese President and Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong has called for restraint in the disputed South China Sea amid a tense months-long stand-off involving Chinese ships, state media reported on Tuesday.
Mainland China claims almost all the energy-rich waters but neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
Tension escalated when Beijing dispatched a research ship to conduct an energy survey in waters controlled by Vietnam in July.
Trong said that Vietnam had good relations with China but should “never compromise” on its sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to state-run Voice of Vietnam.
“On the subject of foreign policy, including the East Sea issue [as the South China Sea is known in Vietnam}, the General Secretary stressed the importance of maintaining a peaceful and stable environment, and resolutely fighting to protect Vietnam’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the report continued.
Speaking in Hanoi before a National Assembly meeting, which was due to start on Monday, Trong added: “We will resolutely and persistently maintain independence while fighting for the protection of our sovereignty, but we must maintain a peaceful environment for development.”
“What belongs to our independence and national sovereignty, we will never give up. We are determined to fight and win.”.
The Chinese vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, was continuing its survey in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone late on Tuesday, under escort from at least three Chinese ships, according to data from Marine Traffic, a website that tracks vessel movements.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry has repeatedly accused the vessel and its escorts of violating its sovereignty and has demanded that China remove its ships from the area.
On Sunday, Vietnam pulled DreamWorks’ animated film Abominable from cinemas over a scene featuring a map which shows China’s unilaterally declared “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea.
The U-shaped line is used on Chinese maps to illustrate its claims, including large swathes of Vietnam’s continental shelf, where it has awarded oil concessions.
In August, police broke up a brief protest outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi over the survey vessel.
Trong has made more public appearances in recent weeks after suffering from an unspecified illness.
The 75-year-old has presided over a widespread crackdown on corruption in the Southeast Asian country that has seen several high-ranking ministers and politicians, including one Politburo member, sent to prison on charges ranging from embezzlement to economic mismanagement.