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Vietnam decries China’s ‘illegal’ activities in Tonkin Gulf

China flag. (Unsplash)
June 10, 2024

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Vietnam has expressed concern and demanded that China end “illegal” survey activities in Vietnam’s waters in the Gulf of Tonkin, a Vietnamese foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

A Chinese navy Type 636A hydrographic survey vessel, the Hai Yang 26, has been operating in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, said the spokeswoman, Pham Thu Hang, on Thursday without giving details.

Hang told reporters in Hanoi that the Vietnamese government “has engaged in multiple diplomatic exchanges” with the Chinese to demand the ending of the Hai Yang 26’s “illegal activities.”

Radio Free Asia is not able to verify whether the vessel is still inside Vietnam’s waters as it has not turned on its AIS (automatic identification system) for tracking.

In 2000, Vietnam and China signed an agreement on the demarcation of the Gulf of Tonkin, which is shared by both countries.

An exclusive economic zone gives a coastal country exclusive access to natural resources in the waters and seabed so the Chinese vessel’s activities are deemed unlawful, according to Vietnam’s foreign ministry.

“Vietnam also demands that China not repeat such illegal activities, fully respect Vietnam’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction, respect international law,” the spokeswoman said.

In March, China released a new “excessive” baseline for its claims of sovereignty in the Gulf of Tonkin, known in China as Beibu Gulf. Vietnam responded with a request that China “respect international law and bilateral agreements.”