Last Sunday Vietnam lodged a formal protest following China's announcement the previous day that it is setting up two administrative units on islands in the South China Sea. "The establishment of the so-called Sansha City and related activities are a grave violation of Vietnam's sovereignty"

NEW DELHI: The international community should consider supporting Vietnam following its notes to UN (over recent Chinese actions in South China Sea region) and protest against Beijing’s administrative units in SCS region in accordance with international law including UNCLOS 1982. It is suspected that China has taken advantage of global pandemic to push its aggressive agenda in SCS as the international community is focused on fighting Covid-19.

India, a strategic partner of Vietnam, should consider raising its voice against Chinese action in the SCS region. Countries must honour international law, freedom of navigation and overflight over SCS region.

Last Sunday Vietnam lodged a formal protest following China's announcement the previous day that it is setting up two administrative units on islands in the South China Sea. "The establishment of the so-called Sansha City and related activities are a grave violation of Vietnam's sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement on Sunday. "Vietnam demands that China respect Vietnam's sovereignty and abolish its wrongful decisions."

China's Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Saturday that it had approved the establishment of the Xisha and Nansha districts, subdivisions of the city of Sansha on Hainan Island. Xisha will govern the Paracels and surrounding waters, while Nansha will cover the Spratly Islands and adjacent waters.

“Beijing has asserted that islands in the South China Sea islands fall under the jurisdiction of Sansha, in Hainan Province, which lies hundreds of kilometres to the northwest. The Xisha district will be administered from Woody Island, while the Nansha district will be run from Fiery Cross Reef. China has been beefing up its military assets on the two islands,” according to a report in Nikkei Asian Review.

Recently in a note to the UN China claimed that it has sovereignty over Xisha Qundao, Nansha Qundao and their adjacent waters. It went on to reassert its “historic rights in the South China Sea”. It claimed that its position on SCS is clear and consistent.

China stated to form two new districts while ignoring claims of other claimants in SCS region and it violated norms in UNCLOS. Beijing’s action ignore well established international law and norms.

International law must be used to analyse legal base of Spratly and Paracel islands. There is a need consolidation, Unity of ASEAN and strengthen to exchange and cooperate views over SCS issue, including highly appreciating Philippines view about the incident in SCS recently.

Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China this month following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel in SCS.

Tensions are further rising in the South China Sea, where a Chinese survey vessel (China's Haiyang Dizhi 8) has been tagging an exploration ship which Malaysia’s state oil firm Petronas is operating in the area. The same Chinese ship was spotted off Vietnam’s waters earlier this week, and moving closer to Malaysia, .

Four US senators have condemned China’s sinking of a Vietnam fishing vessel saying it is a flagrant violation of international law. "I condemn in the strongest terms China’s sinking of a Vietnamese vessel in the South China Sea. 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 (pandemic)," Senator Cory Gardner, chairman of the East Asia, Pacific Subcommittee and International Cyber Security Policy of the U.S Senate, said in a statement on April 10.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch and Senators Bob Menendez and Ed Markey also expressed deep concern about the incident in a joint statement.

Fishing vessel QNg 90617 TS with eight Vietnamese fishermen on board was operating in the Phu Lam (Woody) Island area of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands in the East Sea, known internationally as the South China Sea, on April 2 when it was rammed and sunk by a Chinese coast guard vessel. The eight fishermen were taken to the Phu Lam Island.

Three other Vietnamese fishing boats that tried to rescue the Vietnamese fishermen were chased, captured and towed by the Chinese vessel to Phu Lam Island and released the same day. The fishermen on the QNg 90617 TS vessel were safely returned to Vietnam on April 3.

The Philippines has also expressed its concerns and emphasized the need to avoid such incidents because they "undermines the potential of a genuinely deep and trusting regional relationship" between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China.

Vietnam has rejected and protested China sending two diplomatic notes to the U.N., laying claim to Vietnamese territories in the East Sea. Earlier Vietnam has also send diplomatic notes to protest views of Malaysia (Dec 12, 2019) and Philippines (6/3/2020) on the South China Sea disputes.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Thi Thu Hang has demanded that China investigates the incident and "take strict action against the Chinese vessel and refrain from repeating such acts in future as well as pay proper compensation for the damage caused to the Vietnamese fishermen."

In 2014 China brought an oil rig, Haiyang Shiyou 981, and installed it in waters off the Paracel Islands, changing the status quo in the waters. Since then, Chinese ships have chased after and rammed many Vietnamese fishing vessels near the islands in Vietnamese waters.