China has given names to 80 geographical features in the disputed South China Sea in the latest move to assert its territorial claims in the face of increasing opposition from Vietnam. According to a notice jointly released by China’s Natural Resources Ministry and Civil Affairs Ministry, it has given names to features in the Paracel and Spratly islands. These include 25 islands, shoals and reefs and 55 oceanic mountains and ridges. The last such exercise was carried out in 1983, when China named 287 features in the area, where multiple nations have competing territorial claims. Yan Yan, director of the Research Centre of Oceans Law and Policy in the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said China had acted to assert its sovereignty and sovereign rights after Vietnam raised the stakes in their dispute. South China Sea: Chinese ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 seen near Malaysian waters, security sources say Last month, Vietnam sent a diplomatic note to the United Nations to protest against China's sovereignty claims over the South China Sea. “To reiterate its sovereignty claims over the South China Sea, China coined names for 80 more features after the 1983 exercise,” Yan said. “China is faced with an increasingly aggressive Vietnam as the country continues to fish illegally and conduct oil and gas exploration unilaterally in the South China Sea. And as this year’s chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Vietnam should exercise more restraint rather than acting aggressively.” The statement came a day after China said it had set up two administrative districts – which it named Xisha and Nansha – to govern the Paracel and Spratly islands. China also dispatched a scientific survey vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, to sail into waters also claimed by Vietnam and Malaysia. The Haiyang Dizhi 8 has been accused of tagging an exploration vessel operated by Malaysia’s state oil company, but a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman insisted the Chinese ship was conducting normal activities. China claims almost the whole South China Sea, but these claims are not recognised by its neighbours or most other countries. It has adopted salami-slicing tactics to boost its claims, gradually building artificial islands and facilities that could be used for military purposes over the past six years despite repeated protests from the international community. Beijing moves to strengthen grip over disputed South China Sea China’s latest actions in the South China Sea come amid renewed tensions with the United States and Vietnam. This month Vietnam lodged an official protest with the Chinese government after a fishing boat was sunk following a collision with a Chinese coastguard vessel near the islands. China said the Vietnamese boat had been fishing illegally and sunk after ramming the Chinese vessel. The incident provoked an angry reaction from Washington, which accused China of exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to act when other countries were preoccupied with the crisis. Collin Koh, a research fellow from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said China’s latest moves would only deepen the lack of trust among Asean countries, which are currently negotiating a code of conduct for the area with China. “I think such moves are going to be counterproductive and backfire on Beijing,” said Koh. He said that its actions would increase international attention on the matter, something China had hoped to avoid.