The South China Sea is the energetic lifeblood for China and the ASEAN intergovernmental organization (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Vietnam is one of the ASEAN countries with its own claim to parts of the SCS waters.
Last Friday, the government of Vietnam accused an oil vessel survey from China of intruding in its sovereign parts of the waters. The Chinese ships must be removed from the Vietnamese territory, Vietnam says.
This issue isn’t unprecedented; the two countries have had their disputes about that stretch of water for years now.
The U.S. chimed in the following day, with the State Department issuing a press release, saying that China’s presence was creating an interference. They’ve characterized the year-long dispute as China being continuously provocative to the oil and gas offshore activities of the ASEAN countries. They state they’re also concerned about keeping the Indo-Pacific oil and gas market open and free and that China’s ships are threatening the stability of that.
It has been reported that a standoff is currently taking place between Chinese and Vietnamese ships. It is allegedly happening close to an oil-block in the economic zone which exclusively belongs to Vietnam. There has been no official confirmation of this from either China or Vietnam.
The State Department further claimed that China is intimidating the other countries in an attempt to push forward its maritime territorial claims. They’ve even used the term “bullying” to describe China’s actions.
The Secretary of State added that China is thereby coercively blocking the other ASEAN countries from accessing energy reservoirs. The shipborne trade by the ASEAN countries and China produces around $5 trillion a year, around $2.5 trillion each to China and the other ASEAN countries.
The U.S. did not stop there; they asserted that China was trying to pressure Vietnam and the rest of the ASEAN by imposing third-party restrictions. They claim Beijing’s ultimate goal is to ensure monopoly by inhibiting the other countries from collaborating with other nations and companies outside of China. The Chinese government is coercing and intimidating all involved, the U.S. states, and thus undermining the peace in the South China Sea.
China retorted by classifying those remarks as slanderous. The disputes about waters are an issue between China and Vietnam, and Beijing does not appreciate America meddling in the subject.
While the U.S. is calling China’s action provocative to regional security in the energy sector, China says the U.S. and other foreign forces are, in fact, stirring the pot.
China has built several military stations on artificial islands in the South China Sea, and the U.S. claims this is China’s way of militarizing the waters. China responds that it is the presence of U.S. battleships that’s causing the militarization tension because it is they who are sending warships to islands held by China.
The U.S., China, and the ten ASEAN member countries will soon meet in Bangkok to discuss the matter further.