New reports claim there has been a major standoff between coastguard ships from nearby countries close to the Spratly Islands. But according to Al Jazeera, Vietnam has now told China to withdraw an oil exploration ship from the sea. The ship’s presence appears to have caused the rift as countries such as Vietnam sent their own vessels to assess the situation.
Vietnamese foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said: “Over the last several days, the Chinese survey ship, Haiyang Dizhi 8, and its escorts conducted activities in the southern area of the East Sea that violated Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
“This area lies entirely within the Vietnamese waters.”
Ms hang also added that China’s actions were “unlawful activities” which must be stopped.
Local reports suggest that six “heavily armed” coastguard vessels from both Vietnam and China had been in each other’s gaze since the start of July.
China’s oil exploration exploits have caused friction with Vietnam as it is a fraught issue between the countries.
Tensions over the water have been boiling in recent months, with arguments escalating between the US and China.
Fears of open conflict over the South China Sea have also been raised.
China claims the waters, but Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines also believe it is theirs.
The US, which refuses to recognise Chinese sovereignty, has been sending warships on regular patrols through the region.
Australia waded into the row by acknowledging it was aware of the tests before voicing concerns over them.
The latest development comes at a time when China and the US have been embroiled in a trade war.
The spat was put on hold while both country’s leaders attended the G20 Summit last month.