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Vietnam confirms China ship leaves exclusive economic zone

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By Khanh Vu

HANOI (Reuters) – A Chinese survey ship embroiled in a tense month-long standoff with Vietnamese vessels has left Vietnam’s continental shelf, the Southeast Asian country’s foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday.

Since early July, Vietnam says its ships have been tracking Chinese vessels in its exclusive economic zone, the latest confrontation in waters that are a potential global flashpoint, as the United States challenges China’s maritime claims.

“In the afternoon of August 7, the Haiyang Dizhi 8 survey vessel stopped its survey activities and left Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and southeastern continental shelf,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang told a regular news conference.

Vietnamese authorities would continue to monitor the location of Chinese vessels in the area, Hang added.

The Chinese embassy in Hanoi did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Late on Wednesday, Reuters reported that the Haiyang Dizhi 8 vessel, operated by the China Geological Survey, had headed away from Vietnam’s EEZ.

The impasse has fuelled anti-China sentiment in Vietnam, where previous tension between Beijing and Hanoi over the disputed waters have erupted into protest.

Last week, a Vietnamese fishermen’s group urged the government to take stronger measures to remove the ships, saying they were disrupting fishing activities.

On Tuesday, police broke up a brief demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi to protest against the operations of the vessel and its escorts.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has criticised Chinese “coercion” in the disputed South China Sea, while Beijing’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said last week that maritime problems involving Vietnam should not interfere with two-way ties.

(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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