Vietnam Objects to Chinese Seismic Activity in its EEZ

Vietnamese foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang (Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

By The Maritime Executive 07-19-2019 11:35:41

Shortly after the release of a new report highlighting provocative activity by the China Coast Guard at Vietnamese offshore oil fields in the South China Sea, Vietnam has asked China to cease its unlicensed seismic exploration activity within the Vietnamese EEZ.

"Over the last several days, the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8, and its escorts conducted activities in the southern area of the [South China Sea] that violated Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf," said Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang in a statement. "Vietnam has made contacts with China on multiple occasions via different channels, delivered diplomatic note to oppose China’s violations, and staunchly demanded China to stop all unlawful activities and withdraw its ships from Vietnamese waters, and to respect Vietnam’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction."

The statement was a response to comments made by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on July 17. In a restatement of China's sweeping claim to sovereignty over the majority of the South China Sea, Shuang dismissed Vietnamese concerns over the presence of the Haiyang Dizhi 8. "We hope the Vietnamese side can earnestly respect China's sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters, and do not take any move that may complicate matters," Shuang said. 

AIS data analyzed by the Asia Maritime Transparency Institute (AMTI) show that the Haiyang Dizhi 8 recently began navigating in the row pattern typical of seismic acquisition in an area just to the northeast of Vietnamese lease area Block 06-01, well within the Vietnamese EEZ. On Sunday, two Vietnamese Coast Guard vessels attempted to approach the survey ship, but they were warded off by three China Coast Guard escort vessels. 

"The situations at both Block 06-01 and around China’s ongoing oil and gas survey are fluid and dangerous. Given the close quarters and provocative behavior on display, there is a clear risk that an accidental collision could lead to escalation," AMTI warned.

Block 06-01 is a productive E&P area, and one of its gas fields supplies about 10 percent of all of Vietnam's energy consumption. Russian oil major Rosneft holds the rights for the block, and since 2018 it has drilled two new wells in the area, despite Chinese warnings to foreign oil majors to stay away from Vietnamese waters.