Vietnam protests at Chinese military drill in South China Sea

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Vietnam protests at Chinese military drill in South China Sea

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HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam on Thursday opposed what it said was a Chinese announcement of military exercises in the disputed South China Sea, amid rising tension between the neighbouring countries. Vietnam did not give any details of when it said the announcement was made or when any drill would take place. China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of business hours and it was not immediately clear which drills the Vietnamese statement was referring to. The statement from Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Vietnam was deeply concerned about drills in the region of the Gulf of Tonkin, north of the disputed South China Sea. “Vietnam proposes China to cease and refrain from repeating acts that complicate the situation in the East Sea (South China Sea),” Hang said, adding all foreign activities in Vietnamese waters must be comply with Vietnamese and international laws. The statement said Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry representative contacted a Chinese embassy representative on Thursday to express Vietnam’s position. China claims nearly all the South China Sea, through which an estimated $3 trillion in international trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims. Tension between China and neighbouring Vietnam is at its highest in three years over the disputed waters. Vietnam suspended oil drilling in offshore waters that are also claimed by China in July under pressure from Beijing. China has appeared uneasy at Vietnam’s efforts to rally Southeast Asian countries over the South China Sea as well as at its growing defence relationships with the United States, Japan and India.

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Alison Williams)
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