Published On: Thu, Sep 5th, 2019

South China Sea: Beijing risks infuriating Vietnam as it eyes oil and gas reserve | World | News

The vessel is called Lan Jing and is thought to be the largest one in the world. It belongs to state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and sails under the Hong Kong flag. China has used it before in the South China Sea to install large oil rigs.

CNOOC did not say why it ventured into the Vietnamese exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

But it has been reported it could be a ploy by Beijing to disrupt Vietnam’s oil and gas exploration with its partner, a Russian petroleum company called Rosneft.

Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, based at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said: “Imagine Vietnam has to stretch its limited maritime forces capacity, not only in Vanguard Bank but also over Lan Jing.

“This could complicate the situation for Vietnam which already faces a yawning asymmetry with China in terms of maritime forces capacity.

“What China is doing could provoke a stronger domestic backlash within Vietnam, compelling the Vietnamese political elites to act, which may include allowing nationalistic sentiments to come into the picture as a counteraction to this new Chinese act.”

The ship was tracked by Marine Traffic, a website where information on vessel movements can be found. 

The crane ship came from the Chinese coastal city of Zhanjiang last month.

It arrived just 90 km off the shore of Quang Ngai, which is located in the middle of Vietnam’s lengthy eastern coastline in the South China Sea.

READ MORE: South China Sea: EU powers admit ‘concern’ over tensions in region

It also has enough fish to feed millions of people.

But China has ignored a 2016 United Nations ruling which granted sovereignty to the Philippines waters in its EEZ.

This is because China continues to stir up trouble with other countries in the region that have their own EEZs that clash with Beijing.

Tensions between China and Vietnam have been building over the last couple of months.

Vietnamese police recently broke up a protest outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi against Beijing’s maritime survey of an offshore block in the southeast Asian nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Vietnamese and Chinese ships have also been stuck in a standoff for weeks near the oil block.

Vietnam said it welcomed the US getting involved to help, despite Beijing saying other non-regional nations were “hyping up the tensions”.

Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said: “The South China Sea has important implications for countries inside and outside the region.

“These are in terms of economy, security, safety, freedom of aviation and navigation.

“Vietnam welcomes and is willing to join other nations and the international community to maintain peace, stability and security in the region.”

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