U.S. Accuses China of “Coercive Interference” Off Vietnam

file photo
file photo

Published Aug 26, 2019 5:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Department of Defense has issued a statement criticizing China's activities off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea, calling it “coercive interference.”

On Saturday, a Chinese survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 continued to conduct seismic surveys in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) despite complaints from Vietnam, the U.S. and Australia. The vessel had an escort of at least four ships, reports Reuters, and sailed around 185 kilometers (115 miles) from the coast of Phan Thiet in Vietnam's south. The group was trailed by at least two Vietnamese vessels. The Haiyang Dizhi 8 first entered Vietnam’s EEZ early last month.

The U.S. Department of Defense says is greatly concerned by China's continued efforts to violate the rules-based international order throughout the Indo-Pacific. “Recently, China resumed its coercive interference in Vietnam's longstanding oil and gas activities in the South China Sea (SCS), directly contradicting Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe’s pledge at the Shangri-La Dialogue that China would “stick to the path of peaceful development.” China's actions stand in contrast to the United States' vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms.

“China will not win the trust of its neighbors nor the respect of the international community by maintaining its bullying tactics. Its actions to coerce ASEAN claimants, station offensive military systems, and enforce an unlawful maritime claim raise serious doubts over China's credibility. The United States will continue to support efforts by our allies and partners to ensure freedom of navigation and economic opportunity throughout the entire Indo-Pacific.”

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison made his first official visit to Vietnam on August 22. He and Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc expressed serious concerns about developments in the South China Sea, including land reclamation and militarization of disputed features. They also expressed concern about “disruptive activities in relation to long-standing oil and gas projects in the South China Sea” and called on all parties to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation. 

They also reaffirmed the need for states to resolve disputes peacefully, without the threat or use of force in accordance with international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They reiterated the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). 

 In May 2014, tensions between China and Vietnam flared following a skirmish over a Chinese oil rig that Vietnam claimed was planning to illegally drill on Vietnam’s continental shelf.