Vietnam reprimands China and the Philippines over the behavior of the South China Sea

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam on Thursday criticized the recent behavior of a Chinese research vessel and the Philippine coast guard in the South China Sea, accusing its neighbors of separate actions that violated its sovereign rights.

Tensions are high in the disputed parts of the South China Sea, one of the world’s most important trade routes and a conduit for more than $3 trillion in shipborne trade annually.

Chinese and Vietnamese ships have encountered each other in recent days on multiple occasions when a Chinese research vessel moved within Hanoi’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which experts said was likely a survey. This survey is usually considered hostile if it is done without notice.

Asked for comment, Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman Pham Thu Hang told a news conference that these ships “violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of Vietnam,” which is taking “appropriate measures” to defend its rights.

China has said that scientific research is a normal activity in areas under Chinese jurisdiction.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea as its territory, based on what old maps say, including waters that lie within the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam and four other countries in Southeast Asia.

The Philippines has also been reprimanded for placing navigational buoys in five areas of its exclusive economic zone to assert sovereignty over the hotly contested Spratly Islands, parts of which are also claimed by Vietnam.

When asked about the Philippines’ move, Hang said, “Vietnam resolutely opposes all actions that infringe Vietnam’s sovereign rights.”

The Manila Coast Guard’s installation of buoys is consistent with the country’s rights as a coastal state under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, said Philippine Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Teresita Daza.

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“It aims to improve the safety of navigation in our waters and should not be a cause for concern,” Daza told Reuters in a telephone message.

(Reporting by Phong Nguyen and Francesco Guarachio; Fraguarascio; Editing by Martin Beatty

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