China again ignored Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Friday and deployed a research vessel and five escort vessels to an area where a Russian state-owned company jointly operates a gas block with Hanoi in the energy-rich South China Sea.
The move is the latest step in Beijing’s escalation in the region after first dispatching the research vessel earlier this month along with at least one Chinese coast guard vessel and nearly a dozen other vessels, reported Reuters.
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The research vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 10, passed through a gas block known as 04-03 operated by Vietsovpetr, a joint venture between Russia’s Zarubezhneft and PetroVietnam, on Friday.
The news comes a day after Vietnam called on the Chinese vessel to leave the area near the Spratly Islands after entering the region on May 7.
China has tried to claim sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, recently strengthening its aggressive stance against neighboring countries with jurisdictional rights over the vast body of water such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam. .
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Vietnam issued a rare public statement on Thursday demanding that Chinese vessels leave the area after passing through Block 129, also operated by Vietgazprom.
Chinese spokesman Mao Ning responded to reporters’ questions on Friday after the statement and said Beijing has sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and jurisdiction over adjacent waters.
“The Chinese vessels concerned are carrying out normal activities under the jurisdiction of China. It is legitimate and legal,” she said. “There is no problem entering the exclusive economic zones of other countries.”
International ships are allowed to pass through the exclusive economic zones of other nations because they are not the direct territory of a specific sovereign, although nations have jurisdictional rights over these zones under international law which grants them rights special issues relating to exploration, use of marine resources and energy production. .
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Ray Powell, who directs Stanford University’s Myoushu project on the South China Sea, described the blatant disregard for Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone as the most significant incursion into the region since 2019 and a “worrying escalation “.
Reuters contributed to this report.