S. China Sea conflict escalates as Beijing sends oil rig towards Vietnam's EEZ

Maritime defense, China relations to take priority at 11th plenum of Communist Party of Vietnam

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File photo: Spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang (Vietnam Foreign Ministry photo)

File photo: Spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang (Vietnam Foreign Ministry photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Vietnam has expressed its anger at China’s expansionist activity in the South China Sea this week, as a Chinese deep-water oil rig has reportedly intruded into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

At a press conference held Thursday (Oct. 3), Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said that China has repeatedly violated Vietnam’s sovereignty. Hanoi is currently working to verify the location of the oil rig, she said.

Reemphasizing Vietnam’s claim to the resource-rich Vanguard Reef, known as the “Wan'an Tan” in Vietnam, Hang said that the country “resolutely protects its sovereignty and legal rights on the East Sea through methods allowed by international law." Vanguard Reef has been a contentious issue in Vietnam-China relations since July after a Chinese survey vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8 made repeated intrusions into Vietnamese waters.

According to VN Express, the Haiyang Shiyou 982 oil rig has been operating in waters bordering the EEZ that are about 3,000 meters deep since Sept. 21. If it is confirmed that China is harvesting Vietnam’s national resources, Hanoi may be driven to take defensive measures in the weeks ahead.

Vietnam has responded to China’s activity by deploying the Coast Guard to escort and monitor Chinese vessels while repeatedly warning Beijing to stay away from the area, reports AAP. On Thursday, Hang repeated those warnings, stating "Vietnam demands that China immediately cease its serious violations, withdraw all of its vessels from Vietnam's maritime zones and desist from repeating similar violations."

RFA reports that the Communist Party of Vietnam's Central Committee is preparing for its 11th plenum, which will take place Oct. 7 through Oct. 13. At the meeting, Vietnam’s defense of its maritime territory and relations with China are likely to be major topics of discussion.