Vietnam risking armed hostilities with China in standoff – Palace

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Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 24) — Vietnam is “risking armed hostilities” with China with its reported deployment of vessels near an oil block in the South China Sea, Malacañang said Wednesday.

“It means also that Vietnam is risking armed hostilities between the two countries and risking the lives of their people,” Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo told reporters.

A July 16 report from a Washington-based think tank, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said boats from the China Coast Guard have “harassed oil and gas operations” by neighboring countries Vietnam and Malaysia. Reports also cite the Center For Advanced Defense Studies.

AMTI said Beijing's operations near Vietnamese waters "risk a confrontation" between the vessels of the two countries.

The reports added another Beijing-owned vessel is also undertaking a seismic survey of oil and gas blocks near the Vietnamese coast. These boats were escorted at sea by Vietnam authorities.

China and Vietnam have long been at odds over the disputed areas in the South China Sea. But the maritime row between the two nations came to a head after Beijing moved its oil rig to areas near the Paracel Islands in 2014, which triggered deadly anti-China demonstrations in Vietnam.

Vietnam, on July 19, said it has filed diplomatic notes to China and demanded the East Asian country to withdraw its vessels from Vietnamese waters.

Asked if this was a smart move, Panelo said, “I don’t think so.”

China has also been embroiled in a maritime dispute with the Philippines over features in the Spratly Islands. Beijing claims virtually the entirety of the South China Sea — which is claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan.

A 2016 ruling from an international tribunal invalidated the sweeping claim, but China has refused to observe the ruling. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had said he will bring up the ruling to China “in due time,” amid criticisms of his warmer ties with the Eastern giant.