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 MenendezSenate confirms Obama's long-stalled ambassador to Mexico Democrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Senate close to voting on Mexico ambassador MORE (D-N.J.), Marco RubioMarco RubioCruz wins bulk of delegate spots at Va. convention Trump seeks approval from foreign policy experts, but hits snags Many Republicans uninterested in being Trump’s VP: report MORE (R-Fla.), Ben CardinBen CardinGOP blocks slate of Obama judicial nominees Senators close in on deal on Mexico ambassador nominee Palestine is latest GOP offensive in climate change wars MORE (D-Md.), Jim RischJim RischSen. Cory Gardner endorses Cruz GOP lawmakers vie for convention power GOP senator on endorsing Cruz: 'I guess it depends on your definition' MORE (R-Idaho) and Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySenate pressured to take up email privacy bill after overwhelming House vote House unanimously passes email privacy bill This week: Congress on track to miss Puerto Rico deadline 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.