Apart from Beijing, disputed territories in the South China Sea are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang has warned that any attempt to reject Beijing’s sovereignty in the South China Sea will be doomed to fail.
He also referred to stern representations, lodged by Beijing in retaliation against what it described as Vietnam’s illegal claims in the South China Sea.
The statement comes after Vietnam lodged a claim with the UN, protesting Beijing’s efforts to boost its presence in the disputed area.
This was preceded by data from the ship tracking website Marine Traffic indicating last week that a Chinese survey ship, which was involved in last year’s standoff with Vietnamese vessels, had returned to waters in the South China Sea near Vietnam.
According to the data, the ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 appeared last Tuesday about 158 kilometres (98 miles) off the Vietnamese coast flanked by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel and shadowed by at least three Vietnamese vessels.
While Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Hanoi was closely monitoring activity in the South China Sea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian stressed that the Haiyang Dizhi 8 “was conducting normal activities in waters administered by China”.
The developments followed Hanoi lodging a diplomatic protest over the alleged ramming and sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat by a Chinese Coast Guard ship in the South China Sea earlier this month.
Beijing responded by blaming the Vietnamese boat for illegally entering Chinese waters, claiming that the vessel had collided with the Chinese ship Haijing 4301 after taking “dangerous actions”.
The US State Department, for its part, expressed “serious” concern about the incident, urging Beijing “to remain focused on supporting international efforts to combat the global pandemic, and to stop exploiting the distraction or vulnerability of other states to expand its unlawful claims in the South China Sea”.
A majority of islands in the area is controlled by Beijing although many of those territories are claimed by other countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
Although the US has no claims to the territories, it continues to send its military vessels to the South China Sea to implement what Washington calls “freedom of navigation” missions, slammed by Beijing as “provocations”.