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Vietnam's prime minister denounces provocations in the South China Sea

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc addressed regional leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations during a virtual summit on Friday. Photo by Luong Thai Linh/EPA-EFE
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc addressed regional leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations during a virtual summit on Friday. Photo by Luong Thai Linh/EPA-EFE

June 26 (UPI) -- Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc condemned "irresponsible actions" in the South China Sea during his address to regional leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at a virtual summit on Friday.

In a statement that did not mention China by name, Phuc said provocations heighten safety risks in international waters, Vietnamese state media and Asia News Network reported.

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"While the entire world was fighting an epidemic, irresponsible actions that violate international laws and pose threats to security and stability were taking place in some areas, including" Vietnam's, Phuc said.

The prime minister was referring to the South China Sea, known as the East Sea in Vietnam, according to reports. In April, a Chinese maritime surveillance boat rammed a Vietnamese fishing vessel near disputed islands, according to Vietnam's foreign ministry.

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While there were no casualties following the incident, all the Vietnamese fishermen were reportedly picked up by the Chinese boat. The collision drew strong condemnation from Vietnam at the time.

The Vietnamese prime minister may have also been referring to a more recent incident on June 10. According to Tuoi Tre newspaper, a Chinese ship rammed into a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the Paracel Islands. The Chinese may have been enforcing a unilateral fishing ban in the disputed area also claimed by Vietnam, according to Radio Free Asia.

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The Vietnamese fishermen were also chased before the collision and all 16 crewmembers had to jump overboard, according to reports.

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On Thursday the Philippine government expressed similar reservations about China's increased control over the South China Sea, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said any Chinese plan to set up an air defense identification zone over the South China Sea would be illegal, following reports of Beijing's plans.

Earlier in the week commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Force, Gen. Charles Brown Jr., said a Chinese ADIZ "goes against the rules-based international order" and "impinges upon some of the international airspace," according to reports.

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