China’s assertion that its survey vessel group found in Vietnamese waters had operated legally in the South China Sea is patently false, the Vietnamese foreign ministry stated Saturday.
At a press conference on June 6, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wang Wenbin said China had sovereignty over “the Spratly Islands and nearby sea regions” when he was asked to comment on the Xiangyanghong 10 vessel group’s encroachment on Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Wang said that it was legal for the vessels to perform normal research activities in sea regions under China’s jurisdictional rights. “There is no way our vessels entered other countries’ EEZs,” he claimed.
However, spokeswoman for Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pham Thu Hang rejected Wang’s assertions on Saturday, saying Vietnam has the full legal basis and historical evidence to affirm its sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel islands.
“The legal status of the Spratly Islands, as well as entities of the islands, have been clearly determined in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” she said.
Hang said the sovereignty and jurisdictional rights over a country’s sea regions have been established in accordance with UNCLOS, and the legitimate rights and interests of coastal nations, including Vietnam, must be respected.
“[UNCLOS] shows the spirit of responsibility, constructiveness and practical contribution of relevant nations to the region’s peace, stability, cooperation and respect of the law, including in the South China Sea,” she added.
The Xiangyanghong 10 and several other accompanying Chinese vessels were discovered heading towards the Vanguard Bank area, which is located within Vietnam’s EEZ, back in May, the South China Morning Post reported.
Vietnam had demanded China withdraw the vessels from Vietnam’s sea territories. On June 5, the vessels in question left Vietnamese waters and headed towards Hainan Island, China, Reuters reported.