Accessibility links

Restraint Needed In South China Sea Dispute


Vietnam China Oil Rig

Tensions are rising again in the ongoing dispute over territorial claims in the South China Sea, with a new confrontation between Vietnam and China involving resource rights.

Tensions are rising again in the ongoing dispute over territorial claims in the South China Sea, with a new confrontation between Vietnam and China involving resource rights.

An aggressive and tense standoff has developed amid a movement of dozens of Chinese vessels into an area near the disputed Paracel Islands, where Vietnam has tried to prevent China from deploying a massive oil rig. Vietnamese officials said Chinese vessels repeatedly rammed into and fired water cannons at Vietnamese ships that have also arrived in the area, injuring at least six Vietnamese sailors. China has called on Vietnam to pull back its ships to resolve the dispute.

The confrontation appears to be the most serious in recent years between the two neighbors over control of an area believed to be rich in oil, gas and other resources. Adding to the controversy, China and the Philippines are also disputing control of other areas in the South China Sea, increasing tensions across the region.

The United States is concerned about the new developments and possible danger of escalation, and we urge both parties to exercise restraint. Our country does not take a position on the relative merits of any nation's claim to disputed land features in the South China Sea, including the Paracels.

But China’s decision to introduce an oil rig accompanied by numerous government vessels for the first time in waters disputed with Vietnam is provocative and raises tensions. This unilateral action appears to be part of a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region.

The Asia-Pacific region is directly tied to the United States’ long-term economic and security interests, as is a peaceful and productive relationship among our partners there. The events of recent days highlight the need for all parties to clarify their claims in accordance with international law, and to reach agreement on appropriate behavior and activities in disputed areas. We call on all parties to conduct themselves in a safe and professional manner, preserve freedom of navigation, and address competing sovereignty claims peacefully. ​
XS
SM
MD
LG