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Published On: Mon, Oct 24th, 2016

Vietnam Tries to Defuse South China Sea Military Situation

nsnbc : Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Le Hai Binh stressed that Vietnam calls on all concerned parties involved in territorial and other disputes in the South China Sea to adhere to the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. The statement was made following questions about the presence of the United States’ destroyer USS Decatur near the disputed Hong Sa (Paracel) archipelago.

le-hai-binh_vietnam_mofa_2016Le Hai Binh asserted that Vietnam calls on all concerned countries to make constructive contributions in line with international law to maintaining peace, stability and the rule of law at sea and in the ocean. He said:

“First and foremost, Vietnam affirms that the country has full historical evidence and legal foundations to prove its sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes.”

The Foreign Ministry Spokesman noted that as a coastal country in the East Sea and a responsible member of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS), Vietnam respects other nations’ exercise of their rights in the sea in accordance with the convention’s regulations, including the freedom of navigation and overflight. Maritime claims and related deeds conducted by countries should follow international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, Binh said.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Le Hai Binh also addressed reporters on October 3, clarifying Vietnam’s position on China’s election of officials in Sansha, and stressing that Vietnam has sufficient legal and historic evidence to affirm its sovereignty over the Hoang Ha and Truong Ta archipelagoes. The archipelagoes are also known as Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands, respectively.

Referring to the elections, Le Hai Binh asserted that such illegal actions could not challenge the truth about Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. He stressed that Vietnam resolutely opposes these steps and asks China to respect Vietnam’s sovereignty, to immediately end the wrongful actions, and to seriously abide by the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, as well as the Agreement on Basic Principles guiding the Settlement of Issues at Sea, between Vietnam and China.

South China Sea_territorial Claims_Map_China_Vietnam_Malaysia_Brunei_Taiwan_The Hoang Ha (Paracel Islands or Xisha in China) are disputed territory in the South China Sea with China, Taiwan and Vietnam claiming sovereignty. Vietnam for its part calls the maritime region the East Sea. The Paracel islands are under de facto control of the people’s Republic of China.

The dispute has been lingering for decades but has gained new momentum when China began major land reclamation and island building projects as well as the building of military facilities in the South China Sea. The development has also led to increased violations of fishing rights by Chinese fishing fleets, protected by Chinese coast guard vessels.

Chinese territorial claims in what it describes as its “nine-dashed-line” overlap, in part, with Vietnam’s Economic Exclusion Zone. China also has disputes with the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, and Malaysia.

The Paracel archipelago includes some 130 small islands and reefs, distributed over a maritime area of around 15,000 square kilometers. area is about 7.75 square kilometers, but China has plans to “develop” more land. China has, in any case, plans that in the eyes of Beijing, justify the election of local officials in what it calls its Sansha province of prefecture.

The archipelago is located approximately equal distance from the coastlines of the People’s Republic of China and Vietnam. In November 1946 forces of the Republic of China landed on the Woody Island in the Amphitrite Group but the forces abandoned the island again in May 1950. The islands were then re-occupied in late 1955, this time by troops of the People’s Republic of China.

French and Vietnamese troops occupied the Pattle Island in the Crescent Group in January 1947. In 1955 South Vietnam took possession of the Crescent Islands in the Battle of the Paracel Islands in 1974. South Vietnam’s territorial claim was inherited by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam which has ruled all of Vietnam since the victory over South Vietnamese and US forces in 1976.

In 2012, as China launched its “land reclamation and development projects” in the South China Sea (East Sea), Beijing declared the establishment of “the City of Sansha” as part of China’s Hainan Province.

Vietnam has repeatedly voiced its concerns over “rogue regional Chinese Coast Guard officers” who are “protecting” Chinese fishermen’s illegal fishing in Vietnamese waters. The Vietnamese government also noted that these transgressions were not necessarily happening with Beijing’s knowledge and consent.

Chinese fishermen as depicted in Chinese media. Larger vessels protected by Chinese Coast Guard units tell China's neighbors that there are bigger fish to fry.

Chinese fishermen as depicted in Chinese media. Larger vessels protected by Chinese Coast Guard units tell China’s neighbors that there are bigger fish to fry.

In fact, Vietnam is worried about what it describes as “rogue Chinese coast guard units” acting without the consent of China and Beijing’s possible lack of control over the situation. Geopolitics and “Great Game  Politics” and US involvement also turn the dispute into a fishy affair that implies more than sovereignty and rights to sovereign resources.

Ironically, both China and the USA are treating the territorial disputes in the South China Sea with what nsnbc international chief editor Christof Lehmann once described as “an arrogance that only permanent UN Security Council members who are supposed to keep the peace can get away with”.

The region is of existential importance for Vietnamese fisheries and Vietnam, as well as other neighbors, increasingly protest against aggressive infringement on fishing grounds by fishing vessels protected by Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

The region is also rich in resources, including hydrocarbon and includes one of the world’s four most important waterways. The region is one of the main arteries for shipping to and from China and the United States.

F/AK – nsnbc 24.10.2016

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