Chinese Haiyang Dizhi 8 vessel heading away from Vietnam’s East Sea?

Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escorts’ activities which has been operated within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, has headed away from Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a Washington-based think tank said on August 7.

Chinese Haiyang Dizhi 8 vessel heading away from Vietnam’s East Sea?

Chinese Haiyang Dizhi 8 vessel. Photo: Gulf Times

Since early July, Chinese vessels had operated within the Southeast Asian country’s EEZ, in the latest confrontation in waters that are a potential global flashpoint as the United States challenges China’s sweeping maritime claims.

“Ship tracking data show that China’s survey ship has exited the Vietnamese EEZ for now, but at least two of its coast guard escorts remain in the area of the survey,” Devin Thorne, senior analyst at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) told Reuters, citing data from maritime analytics company Windward.

“Vietnamese ships pursued Haiyang Dizhi 8 as it returned to Fiery Cross Reef and now appear to be loitering just outside of Vietnam’s EEZ,” Thorne added.

Chinese-occupied Chu Thap (Fiery Cross) Reef in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago, has been equipped with facilities that could be employed for military uses, such as a large runway, hangar space to accommodate multiple combat aircraft, and other radar, sensor, and communications facilities.

It was not clear late on Wednesday if China’s Haiyang Dizhi 8 survey vessel planned to return to Vietnam’s EEZ, Thorne said.

Chinese Haiyang Dizhi 8 vessel heading away from Vietnam’s East Sea?

China's ​illegal construction on Vietnam's Fiery Cross Reef in the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago. Photo by DPA from 2016

The survey ship, operated by the China Geological Survey, has been conducting what appears to be seismic survey of Vietnam’s offshore oil blocks, according to the Windward data.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has criticised Chinese “coercion” in the East Sea, while China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said last week that maritime problems involving Vietnam should not interfere with two-way ties.

Also on Tuesday, the Philippines, which is also embroiled in maritime disputes with Beijing, said its president Rodrigo Duterte would meet Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping soon to discuss a 2016 arbitration case over the East Sea.

That ruling in international law invalidated China’s claim, based on its so-called “nine-dash line”, to historic sovereignty over most of the busy and resource-rich waterway.

A representative of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 7 made contact with China and handed a diplomatic note opposing its military drills in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago area.

The information was unveiled by Spokeswoman of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang the same day while answering reporters’ queries about China’s military drills in Hoang Sa archipelago area.

Vietnam has sufficient legal grounds and historical evidence affirming its sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes in line with international law, she said.

“China’s military drills in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago have seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the archipelago,” Hang stressed.


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