Phuc’s remarks were made at a press conference on Jun 26 at the end of the ASEAN 36 Summit last weekend on the capacity of the rotating chairman of the 10-nation bloc this year.
“ASEAN always wants an Asia-Pacific region of peace, stability, prosperity, cooperation, and development and certainly does not want to take a side,” said Phuc.
Conflict over trade and the Covid-19 pandemic put the UA and China in a tense situation, leading to conflicts of influence across the globe, including the Asian region with the sovereignty dispute in the East Sea (South China Sea) becoming increasingly heated by Beijing’s aggressive acts recently.
Answering the reporter’s question about how the tensions between the two powers are affecting ASEAN, the Vietnamese PM acknowledged that the conflict between the US and China is affecting the globe, including ASEAN, and “Vietnam strongly wants China and the UA to promote similarities, overcome differences to build trust and promote cooperation for the common good of the world and the region.”
The head of the Vietnamese government asserted that both powers are “the most important partners” and “we are very interested.”
“The two-way trade between Vietnam and China is very large and with the US we are important complementary partners,” Phuc said.
In addition to trade, conflict in the South China Sea is also a topic of concern at the press conference of the ASEAN conference, amid the backdrop that China is intensifying its activities to assert sovereignty and the UA has responded to demonstrate freedom of navigation in the area.
At the press conference, PM Phuc said that the Covid-19 pandemic had interrupted discussions to develop a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).
“In this context, Vietnam is working with ASEAN to cooperate with stakeholders to refrain from actions that complicate the situation at sea and comply with international law,” Phuc said.
South China Sea: China prohibits boats in the Hoang Sa (Paracels) for military exercises
Immediately after the ASEAN meeting, on June 29, China announced that a new exercise would take place on July 1-5 in the Paracels area and prohibit all vessels from entering the area.
The Chinese military will conduct military drills in the waters off the Xisha Islands (ie, Paracels) on July 1-5, the Ministry of Defense news site quoted notice from the Authority Maritime Safety and the Hainan Customs Bureau.
The announcement of the exercise was made immediately after PM Phuc in a press conference closing the 36th ASEAN Summit saying that “Vietnam and ASEAN cooperate with stakeholders to refrain from actions that complicate the situation at sea and reaffirming ASEAN’s determination to contribute to building the South China Sea into a maritime area of cooperation, development, security, and safety.”
The Chinese notice stated the location of the exercises in detail and added that “during this period, no ships were allowed to travel in the above routes and all ships had to follow the commanding ship’s instructions in place.”
The information is stated in an analysis article published in the Global Times on the evening of June 28. Thus, within five days, China unilaterally banned all boats operating in this area. According to the Nikkei Asia Review, China’s decision will cause Hanoi to respond strongly, since Vietnam’s Paracels have been seized and controlled by China since 1974.
Every year, China still organizes a military exercise around the Paracels to strengthen and assert control of this area. Still, according to the Nikkei Asia Review, China still asserted that the South China Sea is an essential “basic interest” to maintain the Chinese Communist Party’s political control.
The new move follows a series of activities that the domestic media consider provocative and overwhelming of Beijing in the South China Sea recently for neighboring countries, amid the world effort to deal with the Covid-19 translation.
Also in the Paracels region, in early April, China allowed the coast guard to sink fishing vessels and catch Vietnamese fishermen. The incident led the US Department of Defense to issue a statement condemning the behavior that “destabilized the region” and “distorted the global effort to focus on dealing with the pandemic.”
Later, also in April, China continued to announce the establishment of new administrative areas, Xisha district to manage the Paracel region and “Nansha district” to manage the Truong Sa (Spratlys), prompting Vietnam to protest and demand that China respect Vietnam’s sovereignty.
Recently, on June 26, Benarnews cited satellite images showing China resuming dredging at a bay on Phu Lam Island in Paracels, apparently to expand the artificial island that China had built earlier.
Until the end of June 29, Vietnam did not comment or respond to China’s new exercise announcement.
At the same time that the US Secretary of State agreed with ASEAN’s position and condemned China’s intention to monopolize the South China Sea, two US aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan conducted joint exercises in the Philippine maritime area on Jun 28.
According to the release of Rear Admiral George Wikoff, commander of the US Navy’s No. 5 Aircraft Carrier Task Force, the exercise aimed at strengthening the US’ positive, flexible and sustainable commitments. defense with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as strengthening the US Navy’s “operations in all areas.”
Just a week earlier, two aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt also conducted joint drills of similar scale. According to the Japan Times page on June 29, it is very rare for all three US aircraft carriers to carry out joint drills at the same time, and even more rarely when two aircraft carriers are involved in the short period of time.
China again sent a survey ship to penetrate Vietnam’s EEZ
A Chinese survey ship once again invaded Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, and was determined to be present in the sea area 182 miles from Vietnam’s Phu Quy island, the US Benar News reported.
According to Benar News, two different maritime traffic monitoring tools show China’s Geological Ocean Cruise 4 heading towards Vietnam’s waters on Sunday, June 14, 2020, across a military base that China built on Cross Rock in the Spratlys.
The vessel was last located on the morning of Tuesday, about 182 nautical miles from Phu Quy island in Binh Thuan province, ie within Vietnam’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
It is not clear why the Hai Duong 4 ship was dispatched into the area, and the Chinese and Vietnamese governments have not yet spoken about this move.
In July 2019, China deployed Hai Duong 8 ship and escort ships to the Vanguard Bank, also in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, to harass Vietnamese oil exploration activities with a Russian oil and gas corporation.
The presence of Hai Duong 4 in Vietnamese waters, according to Benar News, may be related to Vietnam’s oil and gas exploration activities with Russian company Rosneft near Vanguard Bank.
There are signs that oil detection activities are about to take place near this area. Vietnam’s state media reported that Noble Corp’s Clyde Boudraux oil rig planned to operate in this area. According to the positioning data, the rig was towed to Vung Tau port on April 22 but has not yet left the port.
China has long pressured international oil and gas companies to stop cooperating in oil and gas exploration and production with Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam.