On Friday, China once again defied Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and sent a research ship along with five escort vessels to an area where a Russian state-owned company jointly operates a gas block with Hanoi. the energy-rich South China Sea.
The move is Beijing’s latest escalating move in the region after it first dispatched a research vessel earlier this month along with at least one Ship of the Coast Guard of China and almost a dozen other courts, according to Reuters.
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The research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 10 on Friday crossed the gas block known as 04-03, which is operated by Vietsovpetr, a joint venture between Russia’s Zarubezhnefta and PetroVietnam.
The news came a day after Vietnam urged a Chinese vessel to leave the area near the Spratly Islands after it first entered the region on May 7.
China tried make sovereign claims over the entire South China Sea, having recently stepped up its aggressive stance against neighboring countries with jurisdictional rights in the vast body of water, such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
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On Thursday, Vietnam issued a rare public statement demanding that Chinese vessels leave the area after crossing Block 129, which is also under Vietgazprom.
Chinese spokesman Mao Ning answered questions from reporters on Friday after the announcement and said that Beijing had done sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and jurisdiction over adjacent waters.
“The relevant Chinese ships are conducting normal activities under the jurisdiction of China. It is legal and legitimate,” she declared. “There is no question of entering the exclusive economic zones of other countries.”
International ships are allowed to cross the exclusive economic zones of other states as they are not the direct territory of any particular sovereign, although countries have jurisdictional rights over these zones under international law, which gives them special rights regarding exploration, use of marine resources and energy production.
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Ray Powell, who directs Stanford University’s Myoushu Project in the South China Sea, described the apparent disregard Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone as the most significant incursion into the region since 2019 and an “alarming escalation”.
Reuters contributed to this report.