Lawmakers condemn actions by Chinese ships

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Friday said they find recent moves by Chinese vessels in the South China Sea to be “deeply troubling.”

Vietnamese officials claim that over the last week Chinese military and civilian ship have repeatedly intimated their vessels around the Paracel Islands, ramming into them and firing water cannons. Beijing fired back, blaming Hanoi for disrupting drilling operations and demanding that it remove all vessels from the area.

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“China’s recent movement of an oil drilling rig escorted by military and other ships into disputed water in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam — and the subsequent aggressive tactics used by Chinese ships, including the ramming of Vietnamese ships — is deeply troubling,” said Sens. Robert MenendezRobert MenendezCarson likely to roll back housing equality rule Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State Booker to join Foreign Relations Committee MORE (D-N.J.), Marco RubioMarco RubioTop Dem: Don’t bring Tillerson floor vote if he doesn’t pass committee Booker to vote against Tillerson Rubio wades into Trump-Lewis feud MORE (R-Fla.), Ben CardinBen CardinTop Dem: Don’t bring Tillerson floor vote if he doesn’t pass committee Haley: No Muslim registry under Trump administration Week ahead: Comey under fire; Lawmakers look for Russia response MORE (D-Md.), Jim RischJim RischGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election GOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea Research: Infrastructure systems easy to hack, a little slow to patch MORE (R-Idaho) and Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySenate panel sets vote on Sessions for AG Obama admin injects another 0M into global climate fund Justice, FBI to be investigated over Clinton probes MORE (D-Vt.), in a joint statement.

“These actions threaten the free flow of global commerce in a vital region,” the lawmakers said.

Beijing’s unilateral declaration of an “air defense identification zone” in the region last year and harassment of Japanese ships “raise serious questions about China’s approach to regional security,” they added.

The quintet urged their colleagues to pass a resolution they introduced in April that would reaffirm “freedom of navigation” in the region and presses “all parties involved in territorial claims and disputes to seek peaceful diplomatic resolution of those disputes.”

In a separate statement, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Chinese actions are “needless provocations” and that the behavior is “clearly adversarial.” 

“If there are difference about what activities are permissible in disputed waters, the Chinese and Vietnamese governments need to engage each other face to face,” he said.