HANOI, VIETNAM - Vietnam has accused China of trespassing and demanded a Chinese survey ship in the South China Sea withdraw in the latest flashpoint over the disputed territory.
The two countries have long been locked in a maritime disagreement over the resource-rich waters, with the Chinese claiming nearly all of it.
But the international community has largely sided with the other claimants -- Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei -- citing the importance of freedom of navigation.
On Friday, Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized China's survey vessel the Haiyang Dizhi 8, and its escort ships, for entering its waters in "recent days," although it did not give exact dates.
"This is completely in the sea area of Vietnam," a statement said, adding they had contacted the Chinese multiple times, on different diplomatic channels, "to protest" the act.
The Vietnamese have "persistently requested them to... withdraw all these ships from Vietnam's waters and respect its sovereignty."
While the Chinese did not confirm the presence of the vessel in the South China Sea, a Ministry of Foreign affairs spokesman said Wednesday that they hope Vietnam "can truly respect China's... jurisdiction" over the waters.
"We hope that the Vietnamese side can... refrain from taking actions that may complicate the situation," said spokesman Geng Shuang.
In June, a Chinese vessel and a fishing boat from the Philippines collided in the South China Sea, sparking public outrage as Manila accused the trawler of abandoning the 22 Filipino crew members.
China defended itself, saying their ship had "bumped" into the vessel and had attempted a rescue -- but were "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."