The stand-off between Vietnamese and Chinese vessels off Vanguard Bank, situated southeast of Vietnam, in the South China Sea (SCS) continues. At least 10 ships are now active in the area, monitoring the activities of both the Chinese geological survey ship Haiying Dizhi 8, which has recently returned to the scene after a stand down period on the Chinese naval base on Mischief Reef, and the Vietnamese oil exploration rig Hakuryu 5.
According to recent reports, Hanoi has upped the ante by augmenting its detachment of paramilitary vessels operating in the area, with a heavily armed, helicopter-equipped modern warship.
Recently shadowing the Haiying Dizhi 8, and according to some reports, carrying out obstructive manoeuvres, has been is the latest major warship to have joined the Vietnam People’s Navy, namely the 2,300-tonne, Russian-built Gepard 3.9-class frigate Quang Trung.
For many years, both Vietnam and China have relied mainly upon assets from their rapidly expanding coast guard services to back up their claims to disputed islets in the SCS. This latest development would therefore seem to be highly indicative of rising tension in the area. Analysts are awaiting a response from China.
Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.