China’s Coast Guard shows up at Vanguard Bank in South China Sea to rile Vietnam
According to media reports, vessel-tracking software showed that the China Coast Guard has shown up at Vanguard Bank, a known South China Sea flashpoint between Vietnam and China.
The coastguard ship came within 30 nautical miles of a Vietnamese oil rig, and its sudden arrival may be related to energy exploration Vietnam is planning to undertake in the area, reports Radio Free Asia.
Its presence risks a repeat of a prolonged standoff between the two Asian powers that played out in this disputed, southern section of the South China Sea in the second half of last year, reported the news portal.
The China Coast Guard (CCG) ship 5402 left the port of Sanya, located in China’s Hainan province, on July 1. It stopped at Subi Reef, one of China’s largest artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, on July 2, it said.
The ship subsequently sailed north of Vanguard Bank, within 200 nautical miles of Vietnam’s coast, on July 4, and it is currently patrolling right on top of the bank, which is a completely submerged feature.
Experts have opined that it is a move by China to put pressure on other claimants in the South China Sea, without risking full-blown conflict.
“Many Chinese Coast Guard vessels are a lot bigger than many of the ships in most Southeast Asian navies. They’re pretty damn intimidating, they do ram fishing boats, and they act like naval vessels,” Andrew Scobell, a senior political scientist for the U.S.-based RAND Corporation and a professor at Marine Corps University, was quoted as saying by Radio Free Asia.
“This is all about, from a Chinese perspective, promoting their interests in the South China Sea, strengthening their claims, using all instruments of national power, and at the same time avoiding escalation,” he added.