Vietnam ‘deeply concerned’ about aggressive by China in South China Sea

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc walk together after a welcoming ceremony in Hanoi

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc walk together after a welcoming ceremony in Hanoi

The resource-rich South China Sea has always been a source of territorial disputes between China and several Southeast Asian states, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

China refused to participate in the arbitration hearing, however, and has continued to develop and militarize the South China Sea, building artificial islands and adding ports, runways and bunkers for weapons and supplies.

The USS Ronald Reagan is cruising in global waters in the South China Sea amid tensions in the disputed islands, shoals and reefs between China and other claimant-countries as Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, two-way trade between Australia and Vietnam in 2017 was valued at 12.8 billion Australian dollars (about 8.7 billion US dollars).

Vietnam has been protesting the presence of a Chinese surveying ship along with Coast Guard escorts in oil-producing waters off Vietnam's coast.

In Beijing Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang did not directly address the US accusations but said China opposed what he described as a USA campaign aimed at division.

They called out disruptive activities in relation to long-standing oil and gas projects in the sea. "China's ship has been working in the relevant waters within China's jurisdiction since July this year".

"Vietnam demands China immediately stop violations and withdraw all vessels from [Vietnam's] exclusive economic zone", Hang said at a press conference.

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HANOI-New allies Vietnam and Australia expressed concern on Friday about China's activities in the South China Sea, where Vietnamese and Chinese vessels are locked in a tense standoff in Vietnamese-controlled waters.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) shakes hands with his visiting Australian counterpart Scott Morrison in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, Aug. 23, 2019. "China firmly opposes this", Geng said.

She specifically warned Beijing not to hinder efforts by USA oil and gas companies to forge partnerships with other countries in the region.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visited Danang in Vietnam a year ago, highlighting a growing relationship between the former enemies.

The US said these actions were meant to "coerce" the countries to "reject partnerships with foreign oil and gas firms, and to work only with China's state-owned enterprises".

Vietnam is working to demonstrate it has support from all Southeast Asian countries and major maritime powers, including the USA, said Carl Thayer, emeritus professor with the University of New South Wales in Australia.

-With assistance from Kevin Hamlin.

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