China has coercively interfered with Vietnam's long-standing oil and gas activities in the East Vietnam Sea and employed “bullying tactics” against its neighbors in the region, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement on Monday.
“The Department of Defense is greatly concerned by China's continued efforts to violate the rules-based international order throughout the Indo-Pacific,” the statement reads.
“Recently, China resumed its coercive interference in Vietnam's longstanding oil and gas activities in the [East Vietnam Sea],” it continues.
This behavior directly contradicts Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe’s pledge at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June that China would “stick to the path of peaceful development,” the statement asserts.
The statement came amid repeated infringing activities of a Chinese marine research vessel escorted by coast guard ships in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf in more than a month since July.
The Vietnamese foreign ministry’s spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said on August 16 the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escorts had resumed their infringement of Vietnam’s EEZ and Continental Shelf from August 13.
The Chinese fleet had previously violated Vietnam’s EEZ and Continental Shelf in the southern area of the East Vietnam Sea between early July and August 8.
“This area lies entirely within the Vietnamese waters,” Hang said.
She underlined that Vietnam has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the waters in the East Vietnam Sea, as established in the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The spokesperson said Vietnam had contacted China, opposed its repeated violations and required China to immediately withdraw vessels from the Vietnamese waters.
Vietnam also demanded that Beijing respect Hanoi's sovereign rights and jurisdiction, and its legitimate rights and interests, in accordance with international law and the 1982 UNCLOS, Hang added.
|The Hakuryu-5 oil rig operates in the East Vietnam Sea off the coast of Vung Tau, Vietnam on April 29, 2018. Photo: Reuters|
In Monday's statement, the U.S. Defense Department said China’s actions “stand in contrast to the United States' vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms.”
“China will not win the trust of its neighbors nor the respect of the international community by maintaining its bullying tactics,” the statement reads.
“[Beijing’s] actions to coerce ASEAN claimants, station offensive military systems, and enforce an unlawful maritime claim raise serious doubts over China's credibility.”
The U.S. Department of Defense said Washington is committed to supporting efforts by its allies and partners to “ensure freedom of navigation and economic opportunity throughout the entire Indo-Pacific."
Last week, the U.S. Department of State also said it is “deeply concerned that China is continuing its interference with Vietnam’s longstanding oil and gas activities" in Vietnam’s EEZ.
“This calls into serious question China’s commitment, including in the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the [East Vietnam Sea], to the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes,” the August 22 statement reads.