Vietnam has demanded that China stop sending cruise ships to the South China Sea, Reuters reports. The move is a response to a recent move by China to strengthen its claims in the strategic waterway. A Chinese cruise ship with more than 300 passengers on board visited the disputed Paracel Islands earlier this month.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Le Hai Binh said that “Vietnam strongly opposes this and demands that China respect Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and international law and immediately stop and not repeat those activities. Those actions have seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and international law.”
China claims 90% of the South China Sea, which is potentially rich in energy sources. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the sea.
The first cruises from China to the Paracel islands were launched by Hainan Strait Shipping Co in 2013. Since then two leisure cruise liners based out of “Sansha City” have made 120 trips around the Paracels. China set up Sansha in 2012 to administer its islands in the South China Sea, but its permanent population is no
more than a few thousand and many surrounding disputed islets and reefs are uninhabited. It is based on Woody Island in the Paracels.
“The last three years have shown that Paracel Island cruises are a very suitable type of tourism for Sansha, so Sansha in the future will press on with this type (of tourism), and will proactively expand trip routes, a Chinese spokesperson said. Vietnam and Taiwan also claim the Paracels.