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. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezOvernight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement You want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible Poll: Most in NJ want Menendez to resign if found guilty MORE (D-N.J.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE (R-Fla.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax CEO faces outraged lawmakers | Dem presses voting machine makers on cyber defense | Yahoo says 3 billion accounts affected by 2013 breach Key Dem: Did Kushner use private emails to talk with foreign governments? Dem senator pitches ideas for gun control after shooting MORE (D-Md.), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischRubio won't challenge colleague for Foreign Relations gavel Senate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats Overnight Cybersecurity: Mueller impanels grand jury in Russia probe | Researcher who helped stop WannaCry attack detained | Audit finds OPM systems still at risk MORE (R-Idaho) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Regulation: Massachusetts AG sues Equifax | Trump weighs easing rules on gun exports | EPA nominee to fight worker safety rule in court Trump to ease rules on gun exports: report Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions 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.