Palau has asked China to remove its scientific research vessel that is found illegally operating within the island country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Vice President and Minister of Justice Raynold Oilouch told the media in an interview yesterday, September 24, that the news of such activity came to Palau’s attention last week.

A diplomatic note sent by Palau to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) dated September 20 had asked that China should stop any research activity conducted through Xiang Yang Hong 01, a scientific research vessel operated by the First Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanic Administration of the People’s Republic of China, that is recently found operating within Palau’s EEZ without any advance notice to the country.

The same letter pointed out that the vessel’s activity is in violation of Article 246 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which provides that marine scientific research conducted within the EEZ and on the continental shelf shall be conducted with the consent of the coastal State.

China had recently been issued by Palau a permit for marine scientific research for a different vessel identified as the Hai Da Hao which is operated by the Third Institute of Oceanography.

“Knowing that the PRC government is familiar with the MSR Permit process increases the Republic of Palau’s alarm that such process was disregarded in this instance,” Palau’s another diplomatic note to the US Embassy reads.

Palau is also concerned that the Chinese vessel in question is allegedly found operating “dangerously close” to the country’s newly-installed submarine cable infrastructure.

Palau has also asked China, through its Embassy in FSM, to provide any information on the completed and proposed activities of the Xiang Yang Hong vessel and to transmit application for the vessel’s MSR permit.

Palau has also communicated to China’s Embassy in FSM about its disappointment that the vessel Xiang Yang Hong 01 did not follow the same proper process undergone by the vessel Hai Da Hao.

Palau authorities have learned about the activities of the Chinese vessel Xiang Yang Hong 01 through an information provided by the US.

According to the data from the Marine Traffic, a global ship tracking intelligence, Xiang Yang Hong 01 is a research or survey vessel that was built in 2016. It has a gross tonnage of 4,813 and its homeport is in Qingdao.

Palau has also asked the assistance of the US in conducting surveillance, intelligence gathering, or any activity to ensure that China complies with Palau’s request. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)