Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong made a promise to voters on Tuesday to never give up the country’s independence or any national territory amid tensions with Beijing over the South China Sea.
Oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea is a highly fraught issue in both Vietnam and China, igniting a series of violent conflicts between 1974 and 1988 over control of the Spratly and Paracel Islands.
Trong’s statement came after the country’s leadership was criticised online for appearing to react weakly to what is seen in Vietnam as provocation from China.
“We will resolutely and persistently maintain independence while fighting for the protection of our sovereignty, but we must maintain a peaceful environment for development,’’
Trong told voters in Hanoi before the upcoming National Assembly meeting, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 21.
“What belongs to our independence and national sovereignty we will never give up.
“ We are determined to fight and win,’’ he added, although also admitted the issue is complex and requires a smart and flexible response.
In 2014, anti-Chinese sentiment boiled over in Vietnam and sparked deadly attacks against Chinese-owned factories and businesses, after a Chinese drilling rig entered the disputed waters.
Most recently, tensions have soared between China and Vietnam as Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 has repeatedly violated Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone while searching for oil and gas reserves.
The boat and its vessels are currently operating around 70 nautical miles off the coast of Nha Trang in Vietnam’s south.