Chinese and Vietnamese ships are currently embroiled in a weeks-long standoff in an area of the South China Sea that is part of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. In the newest addition to the long-standing dispute over economic rights in the South China Sea, a Chinese ship owned by the Chinese Geological Survey completed a 12-trip near the disputed Spratly Island, surveying oil blocks that are under Vietnamese jurisdiction. While the ship conducted its survey, various Vietnamese ships closely followed it. The Chinese ship, however, was also being escorted by 3 Chinese Coast Guard ships.
As tensions between the two countries increase, Chinese officials have released statements certifying that the Chinese position on who has the rights over the South China Sea are “clear and consistent.” China’s policy regarding these stretch of water is based on the country’s “nine-dash line”, a geographic separation that includes areas of the South China Sea that have “historically” been part of Chinese territory. Such division, however, violates the territorial divisions established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This dispute over who owns what part of the South China Sea is significant because it dictates which country has exclusive economic rights over the area, which is, most importantly, brimming with natural resources such as oil.