VIETNAM pushed for strong action at the south-east Asian (Asean) summit in Myanmar today to confront what it calls China’s aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea.
Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dzung referred to last week’s clash between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels near the Paracel Islands.
“China has brazenly moved its deep-water drilling rig escorted by over 80 armed and military vessels and many airplanes to the Vietnamese waters,” he said.
The vessels “fired high-powered watercannon and rammed straight into the Vietnamese public-service and civil ships, causing damage to many ships and injuring many people on board.”
Mr Nguyen asked that concerns about the South China Sea be included in the Asean final statement.
Philippine president Benigno Aquino said that he intended to raise his country’s own territorial dispute with Beijing, while calling for support to resolve the conflict through international arbitration.
The showdown between Chinese and Vietnamese ships has spotlighted longstanding and bitter maritime disputes, with Beijing claiming sovereignty over much of the sea’s strategically important waters.
Among the world’s busiest transport lanes, they are believed to contain significant oil and gas reserves.
Several members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations reject China’s claims, saying that parts of the sea are theirs.
The conflict between China and Vietnam started on May 1 when China moved a deep-sea oil rig into waters close to the Paracel Islands in what appeared an assertive move to help cement its claims of sovereignty over the area.
Vietnam, which insists on ownership of the the islands, immediately dispatched ships.
Beijing responded to Hanoi assertions that its vessels had rammed and fired water cannons at its ships by insisting that it was doing nothing wrong.
It claimed to have “maintained a lot of restraint” in the face of “intensive provocations” by Vietnam that were endangering its personnel and property.
Vietnam says that the Paracel Islands fall within its continental shelf and a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the issue should not concern Asean and that Beijing was opposed to “one or two countries’ attempts to use the South China Sea issue to harm the overall friendship and co-operation between China and Asean.”