Vietnam on April 19 protested the Chinese regime saying it had established two administrative units on islands in the South China Sea, in Beijing’s latest move to assert its dominance in the disputed waters.
The Chinese regime has recently been pushing its presence in the energy-rich waters while other claimants are pre-occupied with tackling the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
On Saturday it said it had established an administrative district on the Paracel islands and another on the Spratly islands. The two districts are under the control of China’s Sansha city, according to China Global Television Network.
“The establishment of the so-called Sansha City and related activities seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty,” Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement.
“Vietnam demands that China respect Vietnam’s sovereignty and abolish its wrongful decisions,” Hang said in the statement.
Three regional security sources told Reuters on Friday that a Chinese government survey ship was tagging an exploration vessel operated by Malaysia’s state oil company, Petronas, in the disputed waters.
The vessel, Haiyang Dizhi 8, was earlier this week spotted off Vietnam, where it had last year conducted suspected oil exploration surveys in large expanses of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.
A Malaysian security source had said the Haiyang Dizhi 8 was flanked at one point on Friday by more than 10 Chinese vessels, including those belonging to maritime militia and the coast guard. A Vietnamese vessel was also tagging the Petronas vessel.
This has prompted the United States to call on the Chinese regime to stop its “bullying behavior.”
“The United States is concerned by reports of China’s repeated provocative actions aimed at the offshore oil and gas development of other claimant states,” the U.S. State Department said in an emailed statement in response to questions on the Haiyang Dizhi 8’s presence in Malaysian waters.
“In this instance, [the Chinese regime] should cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activity,” it said.
The Chinese regime’s actions threaten regional energy security and undermine the free and open Indo-Pacific energy market, it added.
The survey ship remained off the shore of Malaysia as of late Sunday.
Earlier in the week, when the survey ship was off Vietnam, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman had said the ship was conducting normal activities and accused U.S. officials of smearing Beijing.
The Chinese regime claims almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, which is also a major trade route. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
Earlier this month, Vietnam lodged an official protest with the Chinese regime after the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat it said had been rammed by a China Coast Guard vessel near the Paracel Islands.
Reuters contributed to this report