Vietnam Pulls Film Showing China’s Claims to South China Sea

Vietnam has pulled an animated film from the country's theaters that shows a map placing the disputed South China Sea fully within China's jurisdiction, as tensions continue over Chinese incursions into waters claimed by Vietnam as its exclusive economic zone, media sources said on Monday.

The movie, Abominable, was produced jointly by China's Pearl Studio and the U.S.-based Dream Works Animation company, and tells the story of a Chinese girl who befriends a yeti found living on the roof of her house.

Released in Vietnamese cinemas on Oct. 4, the film was withdrawn on Sunday by government authorities after a scene from the movie showing China's internationally contested Nine-Dash Line map of the South China Sea was shared on social media, the Reuters news agency reported.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, called the East Sea by Vietnam. The Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam also have overlapping territorial claims to the sea, which is vital to international shipping and trade.

In July, a Chinese survey ship named the Haiyang Dizhi 8 entered Vietnam's EEZ to conduct seismic surveys off of the Spratly Islands' westernmost reef, known as Vanguard Bank, triggering a tense standoff between military and coast guard vessels from Vietnam and China, as well as rare protests by Vietnamese citizens in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi.

It moved out of Vietnam's EEZ on Aug. 7 and toward Fiery Cross Reef, a militarized reef occupied by China farther out in the South China Sea, but later returned under escort, prompting new demands from Vietnam that it leave.

Tense relations

The violation, and several other recent incursions by Chinese vessels, have led to tense relations between Hanoi and Beijing in recent months, with each side asserting sovereignty over the waters, including the Vanguard Bank.

While Hanoi has lodged protests with Beijing over the incidents, many believe that Vietnam's one-party Communist government has failed to take a strong stand on the issue because it is wary of repercussions from China and the potential for civil unrest in Vietnam, where popular feeling against China's influence runs high.

Speaking on Saturday at a meeting of senior members of Vietnam's Communist Party, party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong urged greater attention both to the defense of the country's territorial sovereignty and to social order.

Maritime and legal specialists should meanwhile be consulted on matters related to the South China Sea so that Vietnam can formulate appropriate and effective policies addressing the dispute, Trong said, speaking earlier at the gathering's opening session on Oct. 7.

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