Tensions have risen among claimants over portions of the South China Sea after a Vietnamese state oil and gas company accused Chinese vessels of cutting cables on one of its survey ships, a day after India said it would deploy naval ships to protect its own interests in the region.
Vietnam claimed the vessels cut the seismic cable of one of its boats that was surveying for oil and gas in the Gulf of Tonkin Friday, reported the Vietnamese state-run Tuoi Tre Newspaper.
While the ship was doing its survey work, it encountered a large number of Chinese ships, which relevant agencies told to leave the area. But when the Chinese ships moved past the Vietnamese vessel, they severed the cable in an apparent deliberate act of sabotage, according to the paper.
Senior official Pham Viet Dung at PetroVietnam claimed there was a sizable number of Chinese ships—possibly more than 100 per day—that recently entered seas claimed by Vietnam, according to a statement on PetroVietnam’s website.
“The blatant violation of Vietnamese waters by Chinese fishing vessels not only violates the sovereignty … of Vietnam but also interferes in the normal operations of Vietnamese fishermen and affects the maritime activities of PetroVietnam,” Dung said in a statement.
Dung called on Chinese authorities to “educate Chinese citizens” to respect Vietnam’s waters, and said they should not interfere with Vietnamese vessels operating in the area.
In May 2011, a similar incident occurred when Chinese ships cut the same Vietnamese boat’s exploration cable, triggering protests in Hanoi.
The incidents underscore China’s recent moves to lay claim to most of the South China Sea, as well as over islands and waters in the East China Sea, intensifying diplomatic rows with other countries that have made overlapping claims, including the Philippines and Japan. Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have also asserted sovereignty over portions of the two seas.
On Monday, India said it would deploy navy ships to protect oil-exploration interests in the South China Sea, reported The Times of India.
“Are we preparing for it? Are we having exercises of that nature? The short answer is ‘Yes,’” said navy chief Adm. D.K. Joshi on Monday. “We, of course, will need government clearance. Should a requirement come, I am sure we will have that clearance.”
Joshi’s warning came after the Chinese regime announced it would search and seize foreign ships in the South China Sea, and stressed that India does not claim any territory in the region.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry slammed India’s oil exploration Tuesday, saying, “China opposes any unilateral oil and gas exploration activities in disputed areas in the South China Sea,” according to Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece The Global Times.
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