Vietnam tells China to stop military drills in Gulf of Tonkin

By Nguyen Hoang   August 31, 2017 | 10:52 pm GMT+7

Vietnam's foreign ministry asked China not to repeat such activities, which complicate the situation in the East Sea.

Vietnam on Thursday said it is deeply concerned about China's announcement of a military drill around the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin in the East Sea, the Vietnamese reference for the South China Sea.

Vietnam did not elaborate on when any drill would take place. China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of business hours and it was not immediately clear which drills the Vietnamese statement was referring to, Reuters reported late Thursday.

“Vietnam's stance is that all foreign activities in waters under Vietnam's sovereign rights and jurisdiction must comply with Vietnamese and international laws, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Vietnam's foreign ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement.

“Vietnam asks China to stop and not to repeat activities that complicate the situation in the East Sea,” the spokesperson said.

Vietnam and China agreed on an equal split of the maritime boundary of the Gulf of Tonkin in 2000.

A representative from Vietnam's Foreign Ministry also met with a counterpart from the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi on Thursday to stress Vietnam's stance on the issue.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the drills were routine annual exercises and were being carried out in the northwestern part of the South China Sea.

"The relevant sea is under China's jurisdiction," she told a daily news briefing on Friday, adding that China had the right to carry out such drills in the waters there.

"We hope the relevant side can calmly and rationally view it," she added.

Last month, the Maritime Safety Administration of China's southern province of Hainan, which oversees the South China Sea, said military drills would take place south of the province and east of Vietnam from August 29 until September 4, Reuters reported.

There would be live fire drills around the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam claims, until Sunday, the newswire added, citing the administration.

Earlier this month, Vietnam also asked Taiwan to cease live-fire drills around Ba Binh Island, which is known internationally as Itu Aba, calling in a "serious violation" of Vietnam's sovereignty. The island is in the Spratly Archipelago.

China claims most of the South China Sea, while Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei claim parts of the sea, which commands strategic sealanes and has rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits.

More than $3 trillion in cargo passes through the South China Sea every year.