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HANOI – A Vietnamese vessel monitored a Chinese Coast Guard vessel on Saturday at a Russian-operated gas field in Vietnam’s South China Sea Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), data show. The latest Chinese patrol in a pattern that spans over a year.

According to vessel tracking data from the South China Sea Chronicle Initiative (SCSCI), a Vietnamese research institute, Chinese Coast Guard ships will directly enter energy exploration blocks operated or owned by Russian companies within Vietnam’s EEZ from January 2022. invading. profit.

China believes it is part of a vast territorial claim in the South China Sea delineated by the “nine-dash line,” a demarcation line that the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2016 to have no legal basis. Building artificial islands and airfields on some reefs and islets in the ocean is of widespread concern in the region and in the United States.

Vietnam and Indonesia have asked China to avoid these waters within their EEZ, but these waters are not territorial waters and are not subject to navigational restrictions under international law.

This patrol mirrors the Chinese Coast Guard’s activities elsewhere in the South China Sea, and such vessels have been used to assert territorial claims.

“China claims jurisdiction over subsea energy resources and uses its coast guard to pressure regional countries,” said Dr Ian Story, senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. Stated.

The Chinese vessel last year was a submerged facility near the Vietnam-Indonesia exclusive economic border, according to a map produced by SCSCI and analyzed by Reuters using Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals from these vessels. It has been shown to have followed nearly the same route from the Vanguard bank at least 34 times. Her two Russian-controlled blocks 50 nautical miles (92 km) from the zone (EEZ) – sometimes from the main well she approaches up to 1 nautical mile.

Russian state-owned Zarbezhneft is the operator and shareholder of 06-01, one of the two blocks. Russian gas giant Gazprom is another shareholder in 05-03, which is run by a subsidiary of PetroVietnam, Russia’s state-owned fossil fuel company, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Russian think tank. Washington.

Chinese ships on Saturday navigated both blocks and the other two, as the data show.

A Vietnamese vessel, Kiem Ngu 278, operated by fisheries law enforcement, pursued the vessel, sometimes coming within a few hundred meters, as the data showed.

From these blocks, about 630 nautical miles from China’s Hainan island, Chinese ships usually follow a direct route back to Vanguard Bank where they are stationed, according to data seen by Reuters. The Chinese vessel on Saturday instead sailed to her EEZ in Malaysia.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Chinese Coast Guard conducts patrols in China’s jurisdiction in the South China Sea while respecting international law, and was not aware of any patrols in energy exploration blocks operated by Russian companies. said.

A spokeswoman for Vietnam’s foreign ministry said on Friday that Vietnam was acting in the South China Sea “to protect its legal rights”.

Zarbezhneft, Gazprom, Russia’s foreign ministry and the embassy in Hanoi did not respond to requests for comment.

The exclusive economic zone typically extends 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coast. By international law, the territorial waters of a country over which all its activities can be controlled usually extend to about 12 nautical miles from its coast. If such claims overlap, a conflict may arise.

Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei are among other countries with competing claims in the South China Sea.

The gas-rich fields developed by Russian companies are the furthest from Vietnam’s coast, close to the strategic boundary with Indonesia’s EEZ and close to China’s claimed mining concession.

Since at least November, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel has also expanded its route, passing through Block 12-11, jointly operated by Zarubezhneft and PetroVietnam, on its way to oil and gas field 12W, surveyed by British Harbor Energy, SCSCI data. is. show.

The regional patrol, operated by Harbor Energy, began shortly before Indonesia and Vietnam signed an agreement to delimit their EEZs in the South China Sea in December 2022, paving the way for gas trading.

Harbor Energy declined to comment.

Harbor Energy and Zarbezhneft are developing the nearby Tuna gas field in Indonesia’s EEZ, and Jakarta plans to export gas to Vietnam via pipeline from 2026. The project is currently suspended due to Western Ukraine-related sanctions on some companies involved.

Chinese Coast Guard ships also patrol the tuna block. In January, Indonesia deployed warships to monitor Chinese ships.Reuters Vietnam sends ships to track Chinese ships patrolling Russian gas fields in EEZ: data

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