China on Friday once again ignored Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), sending five research vessels and five escort vessels to the energy-rich South China Sea, where a Russian state-owned company jointly operates a gas concession with Hanoi. .
The move is the latest Chinese government step up in the region since it sent its first survey vessel earlier this month, along with at least one China Coast Guard vessel and nearly a dozen others, according to Reuters.
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The research vessel Xiangyang Hong 10 passed through the gas block known as 04-03 on Friday, operated by Betsov-Petr, a joint venture between Russian-owned Zarbezhneft and PetroVietnam.
The news comes a day after Vietnam called for people to leave the area near the Spratly Islands after Chinese ships first invaded them on May 7.
China seeks to claim sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, and has recently stepped up its aggressive stance against neighbors with jurisdiction over vast stretches of water, such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
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Vietnam issued a rare public statement on Thursday demanding Chinese ships passing through Block 129, also operated by Vietnam Prom, to leave the area.
Chinese spokesman Mao Ning, responding to questions from reporters after the statement on Friday, said China has sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and jurisdiction over the adjacent waters.
“Chinese related vessels are conducting normal activities under China’s jurisdiction. This is legal and lawful,” she argued. She “has no problem entering the exclusive economic zone of another country.”
International ships are permitted to pass through the exclusive economic zones of other countries as they are not the direct territory of any particular sovereign, but states have special rights with respect to exploration, use of marine resources and energy production. have jurisdiction over that area under international law. .
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Ray Powell, who heads Stanford University’s South China Sea project, the Myoshu Project, said Vietnam’s blatant disregard for its exclusive economic zone was the region’s most serious encroachment since 2019 and a “worrying escalation.” said it is.
Reuters contributed to this report.