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 MenendezDems pressure Obama on vow to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees Lobbying World This week: GOP lawmakers reckon with Trump MORE (D-N.J.), Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio apologized to Trump for 'small hands' crack Sunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on Fla. Senate candidate bashes Rubio MORE (R-Fla.), Ben CardinBen CardinDems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals Senate GOP ties Iran sanctions fight to defense bill Lawmakers push to elevate Cyber Command in Senate defense bill MORE (D-Md.), Jim RischJim RischOvernight Finance: Path clears for Puerto Rico bill | GOP senator casts doubt on IRS impeachment | Senate approves .1B for Zika Senate passes broad spending bill with .1B in Zika funds Sen. Cory Gardner endorses Cruz MORE (R-Idaho) and Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyOvernight Cybersecurity: Guccifer plea deal raises questions in Clinton probe Senate panel delays email privacy vote amid concerns Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise 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.