South China Sea fury: Vietnam ’spy boats infiltrating Beijing waters in illegal move’

According to the South China Morning Post, around 34 Vietnamese boats sailed close to Hainan between January 19 and 31. Most of these vessels went close to the territorial limit, according to South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative. The South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative is a Peking University think tank.

The move, it says, is seen as Vietnam bolstering its presence, while increasing tension with China.

A report says: “As it is known to all, there are a number of Chinese naval and airbases.

“It would make no economic sense for Vietnamese fishermen to go the extra distance to the east side of Hainan if simply to fish.”

Around 30 vessels were said to be gathered on the south eastside of the island in a “peculiar” fashion.

Both Vietnam and China claim overlapping areas of the disputed waters.

However, Beijing’s sovereignty over Hainan is not disputed.

This makes Vietnam’s movements in the area illegal, the think tank claims.

Chen Xiangmiao, an associate researcher at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, argues that Vietnam has carried out more than 10,000 intrusions within the year.

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Chen said: “In my observation, they do come for the fishing resources, but at the same time we do need to be aware that Vietnam has its own maritime militia on board fishing trawlers, which does not get much international attention.

“In fact some of the Vietnamese vessels going there probably are just purely spy boats.

“Even with the help of satellite identification systems, they are often too small and dispersed for Chinese law enforcers to catch and expel.”

It comes as China, Malaysia and Vietnam were entangled in a fresh stand-off over energy exploration in the waters.

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An Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) report gave a blow-by-blow account of “a dangerous ongoing game of chicken” stretching back to last October.

The dispute involves navy vessels, coastguard boats, militia vessels, a drill ship called the West Capella and offshore supply ships.

The West Capella, contracted by the Malaysian state energy firm Petronas, is at the centre of the stand-off.

AMTI, affiliated to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said it made its findings based on the vessels’ automatic identification system (AIS) broadcasts and commercial satellite imagery.

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