Vietnam on Thursday (May 18) criticised recent conduct by a Chinese research ship and the Philippines coast guard in the South China Sea, accusing its neighbours of separate actions that were violating its sovereign rights.

Tensions are currently high in contested parts of the South China Sea, one of the world’s most important trade routes and a conduit for more than US$3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce.

Chinese and Vietnamese vessels confronted each other in recent days on multiple occasions as a Chinese research ship moved within Hanoi’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which experts said was likely a survey. Such a survey would usually be considered hostile if conducted without notification.