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Viet Nam has law on its side on East Sea issue

Update: May, 15/2014 - 09:51

by Thu Van

The Vietnamese people are angry. The nation is angry. We are telling the world that we are angry. We have every right to be angry.

Thousands of Vietnamese citizens took to the streets in major cities of the country last weekend, shouting slogans and carrying placards demanding China remove its oil rig from Vietnamese waters.

Demonstrations by the Vietnamese diaspora also took place in Tokyo, Berlin, Frankfurt and some other cities.

The message from all these demonstrations is simple and straightforward: China should stop violating international law and respect Viet Nam's sovereignty.

China's unprecedented move to place the giant oil rig, Haiyang-981, in Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on May 2 made headlines around the world. Experts and scholars called it "unexpected" and "provocative."

One leading scholar said the move is unexpected because Viet Nam has not undertaken any action that could trigger such a reaction from China.

In fact, Viet Nam has steadfastly followed the law. The block 143, where the oil rig is placed now, is located within Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, as is the drilling platform about 119 nautical miles from Ly Son Island off the central Vietnamese province of Quang Ngai.

And China's action is considered provocative because it has sent 80 ships, including seven warships, to accompany the oil rig.

The action smacks of a bully doing something wrong just because it can.

Professor Carl Thayer with the University Of New South Wales has noted that China's claim that the oil rig is in Chinese waters "lacks any foundation because there is no Chinese land feature within twelve nautical miles of block 143 on which to base this assertion". He has also said that "China's placement of the oil rig and its 80 escorts in Block 143 constitutes a violation of international law".

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung informed the recent summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that China's actions were "dangerous and (commit) serious violations".

He said China's actions were "endangering peace, stability, security and marine safety," and stressed that in contrast, Viet Nam has acted with "utmost restraint".

The ASEAN Summit Chairman's statement on May 10 expressed "serious concerns over the ongoing developments in the South China Sea, which has increased tensions in the area". Though the statement did not mention China by name, it is significant that ASEAN member countries issued a separate statement on the East Sea.

The US, Japan, India and other nations have all expressed concerns that unilateral actions are fostering instability in the region and basically backed Viet Nam's approach by calling on all parties to settle disputes peacefully through negotiations in compliance with international laws.

US Secretary of State John Kerry told his Chinese counterpart that all nations that are engaged in navigation and traffic within the East Sea "are deeply concerned about this aggressive act."

Meanwhile, Viet Nam is doing everything it can to tell the world that it is legally defending its waters with the strong belief that it has the backing of like-minded nations.

Although China has remained impervious thus far, we know we are not alone.

We are not expecting too much: Viet Nam simply wants the world to voice their support for us, and show China that we're angry and we are serious about defending our waters.

The incident, while proving China's irrational and immoral ambitions, is a chance for Viet Nam to review its foreign policy towards its neighbouring country and work out an effective politicial and diplomatic strategy.

Another likely byproduct of this crisis is enhanced co-operation among countries claiming sovereignty over different areas of the East Sea.

Our leaders have wisely used the crisis to take decisions that unite the nation's people and uphold national sovereignty.

In addition to the Prime Minister's strong words at the ASEAN Summit, Viet Nam has deployed vessels to defend its waters. When Chinese coast guard vessels rammed Vietnamese ships and hit them with water cannons, there was an in-kind response.

Cao Duy, captain of the Vietnamese vessel which was attacked first by Chinese ships, said he and his crew would try their best to safeguard the country's waters, and make no concessions to the Chinese.

"We will appropriately respond to any violations of Viet Nam's sovereignty," he told the Tuoi Tre (Youth) Newspaper.

Ngo Ngoc Thu, vice commander of the Viet Nam Marine Police, told the media that Viet Nam has been restrained in its response, but "everything has its limit".

What Viet Nam will do next lies in the leaders' hands. We can follow the Phillipines' in filing a lawsuit or choose another solution to hold on to our legal territories. We are in the right, and we have the law on our side.

Over thousands of years, we have shown that we never cease fighting aggressors. We are proud of our freedom-fighter forefathers and resistance is in our blood.

We are a small country, but we are not weak.

We will stand as one, united in the cause of protecting our motherland's integrity. — VNS


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