Japan opposes acts to escalate tension in South China Sea
Updated at Thursday, 01 Aug 2019, 00:02
The Hanoitimes - This is the first time the Japanese government has raised voice against Chinese aggression against Vietnam’s long-standing oil activities in the South China Sea.
The Japanese government has said it strongly opposes any actions that escalate tension in the South China Sea (SCS) as China’s deployment of a survey ship and escorts within Vietnam’s territorial waters since the start of this month has triggered concerns of not only territory claimants but also powers that have strategic interests in this key waterway.
In a response to request for comment from BBC Vietnamese on Wednesday regarding Chinese harassment in the SCS, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan said the Japanese government believes that issues in the SCS are directly linked to peace and stability in the region, and are legitimate concerns of the international community, including Japan.
A Chinese coastguard vessel on patrol in the South China Sea Photo: Getty
From July 3, China sent survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and armed escort vessels to waters near Vanguard Bank, which lies within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Chinese vessels reportedly harassed Japan’s Hakuryu 5 oil rig which started drilling operations on May 12 under a contract with the Rosneft Vietnam B.V. in Vietnam's Block 06.1.
Japan consistently backs full compliance of maritime law and emphasizes the importance of efforts for peaceful solutions based on international law, without use of violence or intimidation, to disputes in the SCS, the ministry adds.
Hakuryu-5 semi-submersible rig. Photo: www.jdc.co.jp
This is the first time the Japanese government has raised voice against Chinese aggression against Vietnam’s long-standing oil activities in the SCS, which is referred to as East Sea in Vietnam.
Despite the Chinese harassment, a Vietnamese maritime watchdog has recently announced that the Hakuryu 5 oil rig will extend its operations by one month and a half to September 15.
Spokesperson of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang on July 25 said Vietnam “resolutely and persistently safeguards its sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction enshrined under the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea by peaceful means in accordance with international law.”
She also noted that Vietnam welcomes and stands ready to cooperate with other countries and the international community to contribute to peace, stability, cooperation and development of all nations, of the region and the world.
Spokesperson of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang. Photo: MOFA
Local media on July 30 reported that Vietnam’s Fisheries Surveillance received two ships provided by the Japanese government to enhance enforcement of fishery law as well as support Vietnamese fishermen’s activities in Vietnamese waters.
Strong US reaction
The US Department of State on July 20 expressed it concern by reports of China’s interference with oil and gas activities in the SCS, including Vietnam’s long-standing exploration and production activities.
“China’s repeated provocative actions aimed at the offshore oil and gas development of other claimant states threaten regional energy security and undermine the free and open Indo-Pacific energy market,” the department’s Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
“The United States firmly opposes coercion and intimidation by any claimant to assert its territorial or maritime claims,” the spokesperson affirmed, asking China to cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activity.
This is considered the strongest reaction by the US side to China’s growing assertiveness in the SCS.
With the statement, the US wants to convey a very strong message that countries in the region have rights to exploit or explore oil and gas in their EEZ, said Bill Hayton, an Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Program at UK-based Chatham House.