In 2023, a Chinese survey vessel named Hai Yang 26 conducted a month-long mission in Vietnam’s EEZ, an area extending 200 nautical miles from the coast, protected under international law (UNCLOS 1982). Despite Vietnam’s formal complaints, Chinese ships continue to disrupt Vietnamese oil and gas exploration activities in the region.

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Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Phạm Thu Hằng, expressed strong opposition to these incursions, calling them illegal and demanding they stop. These actions are part of China’s broader strategy to control the South China Sea, an area rich in valuable oil and gas resources. Estimates suggest the sea holds 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, making it highly sought after.

The Hai Yang 26 is equipped with advanced technology for geological surveys, including echosounders and seismic data tools. These allow the vessel to conduct detailed seabed studies, useful for both scientific research and military purposes. Data gathered can aid submarine operations, mine detection, and naval intelligence, highlighting the dual-use nature of these missions.

The continued presence of Chinese ships in Vietnam's waters exemplifies China's assertive stance in the region, which includes land reclamation and military buildup on disputed islands. These actions not only challenge Vietnam but also affect the broader stability and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, a crucial international waterway.

Editor: Kemal Can Kayar