A Chinese survey ship that has been embroiled in a tense month-long standoff with Vietnamese vessels has headed away from Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a Washington-based think tank said on Wednesday.
Since early last month, Vietnamese ships have closely tracked Chinese vessels operating within the nation’s EEZ, in the latest confrontation in waters that are a potential global flashpoint.
“Ship tracking data show that China’s survey ship has exited the Vietnamese EEZ for now, but at least two of its coast guard escorts remain in the area of the survey,” Center for Advanced Defense Studies senior analyst Devin Thorne said, citing data from maritime analytics company Windward.
“Vietnamese ships pursued Haiyang Dizhi 8 as it returned to Fiery Cross Reef [Yongshu Reef, 永暑島] and now appear to be loitering just outside of Vietnam’s EEZ,” Thorne added.
China has built an artificial island on the disputed South China Sea reef.
It was not clear late on Wednesday if China’s Haiyang Dizhi 8 survey vessel planned to return to Vietnam’s EEZ, Thorne said.
The survey ship, operated by the China Geological Survey, has been conducting what appears to be seismic survey of Vietnam’s offshore oil blocks, according to the Windward data.
Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi (王毅) last week said that maritime problems should not interfere with two-way ties.
The impasse has stoked sentiment against China in Vietnam, where previous tensions over the disputed waters have erupted into protest.
Last week, a Vietnamese fishers’ group urged the government to take stronger measures to remove the ships, saying they were disrupting fishing activities.
Also on Tuesday, Vietnamese police broke up a brief demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi against the operations of the vessel and its escorts.
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