Three countries namely the Phillipines, the United States and Vietnam have voiced protest against China's ongoing military exercises in the waters near the Paracel island in the South China Sea, calling the activities “highly provocative.”
|Spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: MOFA|
On July 2, Spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs objected to China’s activities of violating Vietnamese sovereignty and stated that the drills were “not conducive" to Beijing’s relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Hang informed that Vietnam had made a presentation to and lodged a diplomatic note of protest and demanded the Chinese side not to repeat similar violations in the future.
|Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. Photo: PNA|
On the same day, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said China’s exercises were “highly provocative”, Reuters reported. “That is very concerning, we view that with alarm."
China scheduled five days of drills from Wednesday, according to a June 27 announcement by Hainan’s Maritime Safety Administration.
The Paracel archipelago is now under control of China after Beijing seized it from Vietnam in 1950s and in 1974.
Vietnam and the Philippines have been the most vocal regional opponents to what they see as Chinese overreach in the South China Sea and its disregard for boundaries outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, to which China is a party.
According to Reuters, Hanoi and Manila warned of growing insecurity in Southeast Asia at the 36th ASEAN Summit last Friday, amid concern, including from the US, that China was taking advantage of the world being distracted by the coronavirus pandemic to step up naval activities and advance its territorial claims.
China claims historical jurisdiction over about 80% of the sea. The military exercises are the latest in a long string of China’s actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea.
On July 2, the US Department of Defense showed its concerns about the Chinese move, stating “Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability.” “The US Department of Defense will continue to monitor the situation with the expectation that China will reduce its militarization and coercion of its neighbors in the South China Sea.”