South China Sea: Vietnam warship hits back at Beijing aggression with ‘combat drills’

South China Sea: Philippines ‘keeping options open’ says expert

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China had sent a fleet of fishing vessels with militia aboard to the Spratly Islands earlier this month, despite the Philippines and Vietnam claiming they have control over the territory. In response, Hanoi sent a warship near the disputed island, while the Philippines sent reconnaissance aircraft to observe China’s fishing fleet.

Vietnam deployed the Quang Trung, an anti-submarine frigate, as well as its on-board helicopter to carry out military drills in view of China’s fishing vessels.

A spokesperson from Hanoi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs blasted the incursion, and stated the “activities of Chinese ships … seriously violate Vietnam’s sovereignty”.

The spokesperson also claimed China’s actions violated the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea.

One of Vietnam’s coast guard ships is moored at Whitsun Reef, and is observing the near 220 Chinese “militia” boats active in the region.

Hanoi’s national broadcaster Vietnam Television also reported last week that “on the Spratly Islands, combat preparations are at the highest levels.”

It follows Chinese vessels gathering in Ba Dau (Whitsun) reef within Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands.

The Philippines first urged China to recall its militia boats from around the disputed islands in March.

Coast guards from Manila also said around 220 vessels were moored at the Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls the Julian Felipe Reef, on March 7.

Philippines Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana demanded at the time China recall the militia boats as it violated Manila’s sovereignty.

He said: “We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory.”

The Philippines’ task force in the disputed region also expressed “deep concern over the continuing unlawful presence (swarming) of the Chinese maritime militia” at the start of April.

In a statement, they said: “Neither the Philippines nor the international community will ever accept China’s assertion of its so-called ‘indisputable integrated sovereignty’ over almost all of the South China Sea.”

Beijing has regularly been criticised for its aggressive actions in the South China Sea, as they fish and operate in disputed areas.

On April 9, Beijing drilled deep in the South China Sea to retrieve sediment core from the seabed despite tensions over disputed waters with rival claimants Taiwan and the Philippines.

Chinese scientists on a marine research vessel used China’s homemade Sea Bull II drilling system to obtain a sediment core 231 metres (757 feet) long at a depth of 2,060m (6,760ft), according to the official Xinhua news agency on Thursday.

Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei also lay claim to parts of the sea, which has vast oil and gas potential.

The US has challenged Beijing over its aggressive claims over the South China Sea by sending aircraft carriers to the waters.

Last Sunday, a Navy strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the South China Sea.

The US has also deployed the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island to enter the busy sea lane through the Strait of Malacca.

Washington defended its latest naval activities calling it a “routine” transit and in accordance with the “freedom of navigation” principle.

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