Published On: Mon, Oct 28th, 2019

South China Sea: Trump and Xi in fiery clash after Chinese vessel disaster in Vietnam | World | News

Fears of armed conflict have been sparked by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his country’s aggressive movements in the contested waters of the South China Sea. Beijing is trying to patch up deteriorating relations in the region by agreeing a code of conduct with its neighbours. However, a top US diplomat this month expressed scepticism about China’s sincerity in negotiating a code of conduct with other claimants.

David R Stilwell said China’s ruling Communist Party is pursuing a “repressive alternative vision” for the region that seeks to reorder it in its favour and has put Beijing “in a position of strategic competition with all who seek to preserve a free and open order of sovereign nations within a rules-based order”.

Stilwell added that a code of conduct would be harmful to the region and freedom of the seas “if China uses it to legitimise its egregious behavior and unlawful maritime claims”.

This comes after Xi Jinping’s administration unleashed on Washington in multiple defiant statements in Beijing last week.

General Wei Fenghe said “we will not relinquish a single inch of territory passed down from our forefathers” and also indirectly accused Washington of interfering with other countries’ affairs.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing also waded in to the disputes with Washington, saying on Friday that the US should focus on its own domestic problems such as gun violence rather than condemning Beijing after US Vice President Mike Pence made a speech this week that was critical of the rival superpower.

Pence last Thursday accused China of curtailing “rights and liberties” in Hong Kong and blasted US company Nike and the National Basketball Association for falling in line with Beijing in a disagreement over free speech.

Pence also joined Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in condemning Beijing’s treatment of Uighur muslims, stating that “in Xinjiang, the Communist Party has imprisoned more than a million Chinese Muslims, including Uighurs, in internment camps, where they endure around-the-clock brainwashing”.

READ MORE: South China Sea: Beijing’s plan to dominate region dealt critical blow

One possible cause for short-fused rants coming out of Beijing could be the humiliating withdrawal of a Chinese oil vessel from Vietnamese waters as the two countries continue their row over the Vanguard Bank region.

A Chinese oil survey vessel – The Haiyang Dizhi 8 – had been embroiled in a tense standoff with Vietnamese vessels in the South China Sea, but left Vietnamese-controlled waters on Thursday after more than three months, marine data showed.

The two countries have a long history of skirmishes and violence in the region, with war breaking out in 1979.

The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) will convene this week in Thailand to discuss diplomatic solutions to persisting tension over the resource rich waters of the South China Sea.

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