June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Vietnam is set to hold live-fire naval exercises today in the South China Sea as tension mounts with China over rights to the waters.
Vietnam will hold a "routine annual training activity" off the coast of the central province of Quang Nam, according to a statement on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website. A Vietnamese maritime safety company posted a notice of precise areas and times for the live-fire drill.
The maneuvers follow government accusations last week that a Chinese vessel harassed a Vietnamese ship in the South China Sea. Ownership of virtually all of the area is contested, with claims for various parts made by Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Vietnam also said it welcomes international involvement to keep the peace amid escalating tensions.
"Maintaining peace, stability, security, and maritime safety in the Eastern Sea is the common interest of the countries inside and outside the region," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said in a statement on the ministry’s website, using the Vietnamese term for waters adjacent to the nation’s coastline. "Every effort by the international community in maintaining peace and stability in the Eastern Sea is welcome."
"The U.S., like many other nations, has interests in the South China Sea," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at a June 10 press conference in Washington when asked about the drills. The U.S. believes in a "collaborative, diplomatic process," he said, according to the department’s website. "Shows of force, other gestures like that just, I think, raise tensions."
Vietnam’s government said on June 9 that a Chinese vessel harassed a Vietnam Oil & Gas Group survey ship in the waters. The incident followed a similar one two weeks before. A Chinese fishing boat "tangled with the cables of a Vietnamese oil and gas exploration vessel" while being "chased" by armed Vietnamese ships on June 9, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, said in comments posted on the ministry’s website.
--Jason Folkmanis in Ho Chi Minh City. Editors: Patrick Harrington, John Brinsley
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