HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam – Vietnam has denounced Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, accusing it of conducting illegal oil exploration in the disputed territorial waters, a Vietnamese state-owned news portal said on Thursday.
VGP news reported that Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh in a closed-door meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers with their Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Bangkok lashed out at Beijing for violating Hanoi’s sovereignty and sovereign rights in a South China Sea territory that falls under Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.
At the ASEAN-China ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Minh in his speech, addressed to Wang, expressed serious concern about the geological survey conducted since the beginning of July by Chinese ship Haiyang Dizhi 8, accompanied by an escort, near Vanguard Bank, VGP news said.
“Such activities seriously threaten the legitimate rights and benefits of coastal countries, erode trust, and intensify tension, thus they are unconducive to peace and stability in the region,” said the Vietnamese foreign minister.
He recalled ASEAN’s position on the importance of maintaining self-control, avoiding militarization and actions that aggravate the conflict.
The minister said international law, including the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), should be respected and closely adhered to.
In recent weeks, Vietnam has on several occasions asked China to withdraw its boats from the disputed region.
Russian oil firm Rosneft in collaboration with Vietnam began drilling in this area on May 12 when its drilling contract was canceled by Hanoi due to pressure from Beijing.
At the meeting, the Chinese delegation underlined the progress in the code of conduct, which is aimed at peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Beijing has been negotiating the code with ASEAN countries for years.
The territorial conflict is expected to continue to be the focus of much of the discussions at the ASEAN summit, which concludes over the weekend. United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also in the Thai capital on Thursday to meet foreign ministers of ASEAN countries.
Pompeo’s arrival in Bangkok was preceded by several statements in the last few days by Washington, accusing China of undermining peace and security by harassing its neighbors in the region.
Besides Vietnam, three other ASEAN members – Brunei, Philippines and Malaysia – claim sovereignty over portions of the South China Sea, an area that Beijing claims in its entirety.
In recent years, tensions have been rising in the South China Sea, a key strategic area for its rich natural resources such as fisheries, gas and oil, and trade routes. Beijing has built military facilities on several islets in the region.