A Chinese research ship and its accompanying fleet, which had been operating in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea for nearly a month, have reportedly left the area following high-level talks between the United States and China.
The Chinese vessel, named Xiang Yang Hong 10, entered Vietnam’s EEZ on May 7, accompanied by multiple ships and frequently crossing oil and gas fields operated by Russian companies.
However, after constructive discussions between senior officials from the US and China in Beijing, the Chinese research ship and its escort began their journey back to China’s Hainan island, leaving Vietnam’s EEZ at midnight. This development follows a public protest by Vietnam’s government urging the Chinese ships to leave the country’s EEZ. While the vessels have returned to Hainan for now, concerns remain about the possibility of them resuming activities in the South China Sea.
Chinese ships leave Vietnam’s EEZ
The Chinese research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 10, accompanied by a fleet of ships, concluded its nearly month-long presence in Vietnam’s EEZ in the South China Sea. The ships had been operating in the area since May 7, conducting research activities and traversing oil and gas fields managed by Russian companies.
However, following productive discussions between senior officials from the United States and China, the Chinese vessel and its escort began their journey back to China’s Hainan island, departing Vietnam’s EEZ at midnight. This development comes after Vietnam’s government publicly demanded the withdrawal of the Chinese ships from its EEZ.
South China Sea controversy
China’s activities in the South China Sea have long been a cause for concern among neighboring countries. Beijing claims a significant portion of the energy-rich sea, including foreign EEZs, which has sparked disputes with other nations in the region. While international law permits ships to sail through foreign EEZs, unauthorized surveys are prohibited. The presence of the Chinese research ship and its escort in Vietnam’s EEZ without authorization raised tensions, prompting Vietnam’s government to issue a rare public protest. However, China’s foreign ministry responded by asserting the legitimacy of the research vessel’s activities in waters under China’s jurisdiction and disregarded the issue of entering another country’s EEZ.
Uncertainty and future implications
While the Chinese research ship and its accompanying fleet have returned to China’s Hainan island, concerns persist regarding their future activities in the South China Sea. Van Pham, the head of the independent non-profit organization South China Sea Chronicle Initiative, cautioned that Hainan is not the research ship’s home port, implying that it could resume operations in the area after a hiatus.
This uncertainty underscores the persistent challenges arising from China’s expansive territorial claims and their impact on regional stability. Although the departure of the Chinese vessels from Vietnam’s EEZ may offer temporary respite, it does not address the wider disputes related to maritime boundaries and resource exploitation in the South China Sea. The situation highlights the complexity and ongoing nature of the issues surrounding the region, calling for continued attention and efforts to find a resolution.
In conclusion, the Chinese research ship and its escort have left Vietnam’s EEZ in the South China Sea after operating in the area for nearly a month. Their departure followed high-level talks between the US and China and a public protest by Vietnam’s government. While the ships have returned to China’s Hainan island, concerns persist regarding future activities in the South China Sea, as China’s territorial claims and actions in the region continue to be a contentious issue. The situation underscores the complex dynamics and ongoing tensions surrounding maritime disputes in the South China Sea.