Vietnam and the Philippines warned of growing insecurity in Southeast Asia at a regional summit on Friday amid concerns that China was stepping up its activity in the disputed South China Sea (SCS) During the coronavirus pandemic, James Pearson reported for Reuters late on June 26, 2020.

Both Hanoi and Manila lodged protests with China in April after Beijing unilaterally declared the creation of new administrative districts on its man-made islands in the troubled waterways to which Vietnam and the Philippines also have competing claims.

In his opening remarks at the 36th ASEAN Summit, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said international institutions and international law had been seriously challenged during the global crisis. “The pandemic is fanning the flames of dormant challenges within the political, economic and social environment of the world and in each region,” Phuc said. “While the entire world is stretched thin in the fight against the pandemic, irresponsible acts and acts in violation of international law are still taking place, affecting the environment of security and stability in certain regions, including in our region,” he added. For his part, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said: “Even as our region struggles to contain COVID-19, alarming incidents in the SCS occurred. We call on parties to refrain from escalating tensions and abide by responsibilities under international law.”

China has been pushing its presence in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of other countries using motherhood statements on its historical claims other nations claimed were written in the sand while claimants are preoccupied tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the United States to call on China to stop its “bullying behavior” there. In early April, Vietnam said one of its fishing boats was sunk by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel. China said that Vietnam’s claims in SCS are illegal and “doomed to fail.”

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@2020 by The Financial District