Several United States senators recently slammed China’s actions in the South China Sea as the world focuses on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The most recent actions by the Asian country include the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat by a Chinese coast guard vessel near Paracel Islands earlier this month and the deployment of military aircraft.
“The reports of a Chinese Coast Guard vessel sinking a Vietnamese fishing vessel and China’s other activities on illegally reclaimed features in the South China Sea are deeply concerning,” said Republican Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“These are just the latest examples of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) blatant intimidation of its neighbors to assert its excessive maritime claims. The CCP is undermining regional stability at a time when the international community should be coming together to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a committee member, noted the discrepancy between the Chinese coast guard’s duty and actions.
“At a time when the international community should be working together to face a common foe, China’s continued divisive and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea is deplorable. The first duty of any coast guard is to guarantee safety at sea – not to contribute to lawlessness and danger,” he said.
“The Chinese coast guard’s culpability in the collision and sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel is unambiguous, and constitutes unsafe and unacceptable maritime behavior, deserving of condemnation,” he added.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) echoed their sentiments, condemning China’s actions, as well.
“I condemn in the strongest terms China’s sinking of a Vietnamese vessel in the South China Sea,” he said.
He added, “This is a flagrant violation of international law and comes at a time when nations around the world are focused on combating the COVID-19 scourge that spread in part due to the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up and negligence.”
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), meanwhile, assured that the U.S. government will not turn a blind eye to China’s military activities.
“As authoritarians exploit the pandemic to erode rule of law, we must continue to call out Beijing’s efforts to assert unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea,” he said.
“The United States will not turn a blind eye to military coercion of Southeast Asian countries. Like the rest of the world, the Indo-Pacific is focused on fighting the coronavirus, but the United States must continue to assist our regional partners and allies in defending their freedom of navigation, the free flow of commerce, and adherence to international agreements in the face of Chinese aggression during this pandemic,” he added.
The Vietnam foreign ministry on April 3 said it filed a diplomatic protest before the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi over the incident that saw a Chinese coast guard vessel ramming and sinking a fishing boat QNg 90617 carrying eight fishermen.
“The above-mentioned Chinese vessel’s act violates Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the Paracel Islands, causes property losses and endangers the lives, safety and legitimate interests of the Vietnamese fishermen,” said the Vietnamese foreign ministry in a statement. (Ritchel Mendiola/AJPress)