After a senior Vietnamese official said that they could explore legal action around its territorial dispute in the South China Sea, China called on Vietnam on November 8 to “complicate” the issue. The two countries have been in a tug of war over an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the international waters of Vietnam which even China claims. China in July sent a ship for a months-long seismic survey to the area which further aggravated the tensions between the countries. Deputy foreign minister Le Hoai Trung said that Vietnam preferred negotiations but did have other options for the disputed waterway, including arbitration and litigation.
Responding to the Vietnamese minister's comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that Vietnam was at the core of the South China Sea problem and other claimants invading and occupying Chinese islands. Geng Shuang further said that Vietnam should face the historical reality and abide by the high-level consensus reached by both countries. The foreign minister that both the countries should resolve the issue by dialogue and consultations and avoid taking action that may lead to complications. This might disturb the broader picture of peace and stability in the South China Sea and bilateral relations, he added.
The entire South China Sea is claimed by China along with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam who surround it. China by now has set military outposts on the energy-rich waters making artificial islands. The International Court of Justice invalidated China’s claim over most of the waters following a 2013 case filed by Manila in 2016. Yet China did not pay heed to the verdict. Vietnam is yet to speak on whether to plan to file any lawsuit.