Vietnam protests Chinese hospital ship deployed in South China Sea

Vietnam protested what is said was China’s violation of its sovereignty after Beijing dispatched a navy hospital ship to the Paracels, a group of small coral islands and reefs in the South China Sea currently occupied by China but claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
South China Sea:- Vietnam protested what is said was China’s violation of its sovereignty after Beijing dispatched a navy hospital ship to the Paracels.[VOA]
South China Sea:- Vietnam protested what is said was China’s violation of its sovereignty after Beijing dispatched a navy hospital ship to the Paracels.[VOA]

South China Sea:- Vietnam protested what is said was China’s violation of its sovereignty after Beijing dispatched a navy hospital ship to the Paracels, a group of small coral islands and reefs in the South China Sea currently occupied by China but claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

China Central Television first reported the story on May 21.

Doan Khac Viet, deputy spokesperson for the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said his country objected to the ship’s presence. He spoke May 23 in response to a question from the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper regarding the Youai hospital ship being sent to the archipelago, known as Hoang Sa in Vietnamese.

"Vietnam resolutely opposes any activities infringing upon Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa," Viet emphasized.

The Youai hospital ship is under the command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army’s Southern Theater Command. According to a report in the Global Times, citing China Central Television, the ship sailed around the Paracels, covering around 1,000 kilometers, and stopped at some islands to provide health service and treatment to Chinese soldiers.

Viet said Vietnam "objects to any action that hinders and infringes on the sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction" of Vietnam over the Paracels in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the online VnExpress newspaper reported.

VOA contacted the Chinese foreign affairs ministry and its embassy in Washington for comment but received no response at the time of publication.

"This would appear to be a pro forma objection by Vietnam, intended to publicly respond to China’s public announcement of the hospital ship’s voyage, and thus register Hanoi’s continued claim of sovereignty over the Paracel Islands," Raymond Powell, a fellow at Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, told VOA via email.

"China consolidated its control over the Paracels 50 years ago when it seized the western islands from South Vietnam, at a time when Hanoi’s chief interest was in prosecuting its conquest of the South," Powell said.

China has since developed and militarized its presence in the Paracels, making any change in the status quo highly unlikely.

According to Powell, "This makes Hanoi’s claims largely defensive in nature, more intended as a lawfare bulwark against future encroachments into Vietnam’s waters by staving off international recognition of a Chinese exclusive economic zone claim based on the Paracels."

In 1959, China set up government offices in the Paracels, and in 1974, acquired and obtained full control of the islands after its naval battle against the then-South Vietnamese government.

The floating hospital, commissioned in November 2020 and equipped with a helicopter landing pad, is expected to provide support in China’s "multidimensional drills in the South China Sea," according to China Military online.

Earlier in May, the ship took part in a series of training, including transporting the wounded in emergency situations and rescuing damaged vessels, China Central Television reported.

"As Vietnam has recently deepened its relations with both China and the U.S., I think it is a good idea for Vietnam to maintain the quo status in the South China Sea, as well as to continue to occupy its outposts in the Spratly Islands," Hoang Viet told VOA in a recent phone interview. He is an expert on South China Sea disputes at the National University of Ho Chi Minh City.

In January, Pham Thu Hang, a spokesperson for Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Vietnam had "sufficient evidence to claim sovereignty over the islands" as it marked the 50th anniversary of China’s invasion of the Paracel Islands.

Pham spoke in Hanoi in response to reporters’ questions on Vietnam's position concerning China's invasion of the Hoang Sa Islands in 1974.

Four days later, the Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing’s claims of the islands were "fully supported by history and jurisprudence," the Reuters news agency reported.

"China was the first to discover, name, develop and manage these islands and archipelagos, and continues to exercise sovereign jurisdiction over them," Wang Wenbin, a foreign ministry spokesperson, said at a regular news conference on January 24.

"China always opposes relevant countries' illegal claims on China's territory and will continue to firmly safeguard its sovereignty," Wenbin said. VOA/SP

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