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China’s aggressive acting in the South China Sea has escalated tensions with Vietnam!

The escalating tensions between the Chinese Coast Guard and their Philippine counterparts have dominated headlines, yet another nation in the South China Sea finds itself in Beijing’s crosshairs. Vietnam has voiced alarm over increased activity by Chinese research vessels within its waters and has called on Beijing to halt what it deems “illegal activities.”

Following China’s maritime Gray zone tactics, there has been a surge in the frequency and duration of Chinese ships operating within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), intensifying pressure on Vietnam. In 2023, a Chinese survey vessel spent a month within Vietnam’s EEZ, which stretches 200 nautical miles from its coast.

The strained relationship between the two nations poses a significant potential flashpoint in the South China Sea.

The prolonged presence of Chinese survey vessels in the area is part of Beijing’s assertive strategy to stake claim over much of the South China Sea, renowned for its vast untapped oil reserves and natural gas. It’s estimated to hold 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Chinese research, coast guard, and civilian vessels have maintained a persistent presence in these waters while obstructing Vietnamese oil and gas operations.

On June 6, Vietnam lodged concerns over the survey activities of the Chinese Hai Yang 26 vessel in its EEZ and continental shelf.

Hai Yang 26 is a versatile scientific research vessel operated by the China Geological Survey, a branch under the Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources. With an endurance of 35 days, it’s equipped with 32 geological survey equipment modules, including those for drilling, static cone penetration, geophysical surveys, and mineral studies.

Through diplomatic channels, Hanoi has firmly protested against Chinese aggression.

A Spokesperson for the foreign ministry, Phạm Thu Hằng, stated on June 6: “Vietnam is deeply concerned and strongly opposes and demands that China cease the illegal survey activities of the Hai Yang 26 vessel within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982).”

In 2019, Chinese and Vietnamese coast guard vessels engaged in a week-long standoff over a reef in the South China Sea, marking the most significant confrontation between the two nations in five years. This incident followed a major standoff in 2014 when a Chinese oil rig arrived off the disputed Paracel Islands.

In 2023, tensions flared again as Vietnam opted to expand its oil drilling operations in Vanguard Bank, an area both nations claim. Both sides dispatched vessels to expel each other from the region.

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