China and Vietnam face off in South China Sea over resource rich Vanguard Reef

US think tanks, CSIS, says possibility of conflict has increased in recent weeks

Vietnam Coast Guard Vessel

Vietnam Coast Guard Vessel (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Tensions are rising in the South China Sea, with a potential flashpoint developing between China and Vietnam, who are engaged in a weeks-long “stand-off” over the Vanguard Bank, according to multiple reports.

On Monday (July 15), a Chinese survey vessel the Haiyang Dizhi 8 completed a 12 day survey of waters around the nearby Spratly Island chain, and also passed within 200 nautical miles of Vietnam’s coast reports SCMP. Throughout most of the survey the nine Vietnamese vessels trailed the Haiyang Dizhi, which was escorted by at least four Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

On Tuesday (July 16), the day after the survey concluded, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry released an official statement warning “foreign parties” not to encroach on Vietnamese territorial waters.

“Without Vietnam’s permission, all actions undertaken by foreign parties in Vietnamese waters have no legal effect, and constitute encroachments in Vietnamese waters, and violations of international law,” said Foreign Ministery spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang, as reported by Reuters.

According to data obtained by the Center for Strategic Studies (CSIS), earlier in July Chinese vessels engaged in aggressive maneuvers near Vietnamese vessels servicing a Japanese-owned oil rig some 370 km southeast of Vietnam. The Washington based think tank believes that the risk of collision or armed conflict between Vietnamese and Chinese forces has increased following the most recent incidents.

Another report from SCMP states that China is maintaining its naval presence near the Vanguard Bank, which is occupied by Vietnam with an aim of preventing Vietnam from laying claim to the resource rich area.

Vanguard Bank (Wikimedia Commons image)

Vanguard Bank area highlighted in red (Wikimedia Commons image)