Chinese survey ship leaves Vanguard Bank in South China Sea and heads to artificial island outpost
- Beijing did not say why Haiyang Dizhi 8 left the area, but last month it also travelled to Fiery Cross Reef and spent time refuelling there before returning
- Vessel first entered waters near the resource-rich reef controlled by Vietnam in early July, sparking the worst stand-off between the countries for five years
A Chinese-owned survey ship that has been at the centre of a stand-off with Vietnamese vessels in the South China Sea on Monday left the area and headed for a Beijing-controlled reef.
The Haiyang Dizhi 8, or Marine Geology 8, departed from Vanguard Bank – claimed by both Vietnam and China – and sailed towards Fiery Cross Reef, according to data from MarineTraffic, which tracks vessel movements.
The survey ship, escorted by coastguard vessels, first entered waters near Vanguard Bank in early July, apparently to send a message over Hanoi’s drilling in the area as part of a joint venture with Russian oil and gas company Rosneft.
While there is no immediate sign that Beijing and Hanoi will escalate the situation at Vanguard Bank, neither side is likely to back down. Last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang rejected Hanoi’s demand for the Haiyang Dizhi 8 leave Vanguard Bank, saying China had sovereignty over the area and describing its survey operations there as “legal, reasonable, and beyond reproach”.
The resource-rich South China Sea is one of the region’s most dangerous flashpoints and Beijing – wary of freedom of navigation operations in the waterway by the US and its allies – has insisted that territorial disputes should be resolved between claimants.