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Lawyers protest at illegal China bid

Update: June, 30/2012 - 09:26

HA NOI — The Viet Nam Lawyers Association has released a statement opposing the invitation for bids for nine lots in the East Sea by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation.

The Chinese corporation recently invited international bids for nine lots which are situated deep within Viet Nam's continental shelf and overlap lots 128 to 132 and 145 to 156 where PetroVietnam has been operating for a long time.

"This is not a disputed area," said the association, adding that it completely supports the statement released by the Foreign Ministry spokesperson on June 26.

The association also "strongly protests and requests that the Chinese side stop the wrongful invitation for bids and not take any further action to inflame the situation in the East Sea or inflate the dispute."

This act taken by the Chinese corporation seriously violated the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Clauses 58, 76 and 77) to which China itself was a member, the lawyers association said. This also seriously violated Viet Nam's sovereign right and jurisdiction over the country's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, it said.

The act was counter to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea signed between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2002, as well as the agreement on the fundamental principles that guide the settlement of disputes at sea signed by Viet Nam and China in October, 2011.

The association demanded that the Chinese side observe the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as all other related international laws and adhere to the commitments made in the Declaration of Conduct.

It called on legal circles around the world to cry out for justice and asked multi-national oil and gas companies to respect Viet Nam's sovereign right and jurisdiction and not take part in the Chinese corporation invitation for bids.

The lawyers' association also said it supported the statement by the Foreign Ministry spokesperson on June 21 and strongly condemned China 's decision to establish the so called Sansha city. This seriously violated Viet Nam's indisputable sovereignty over the Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelagoes, it said.

In the statement, the association added that it always wanted to promote the traditional friendship and co-operation between the Vietnamese and Chinese people and both legal circles in particular.

At the same time, it was willing to do its utmost to protect justice, international laws, respect sovereignty, independence and the territorial integrity of nations to maintain peace and security in the region and the world.

The Viet Nam Petroleum Association also protested China's oil bids, saying it seriously violated Viet Nam's sovereignty.

Several international scholars also said that the lots in the East Sea the Chinese corporation had invited bids for were within Viet Nam's 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

The scholars made the remarks at an international seminar on the East Sea, which was held in Washington in the US on June 27- 28 by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Professor Carlyle Thayer, from the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said it was to "retaliate, a pay-back for Viet Nam's passing a law by offering oil exploration blocks, all of which are in Viet Nam's economic zone".

He believed that it was more of a political act than a commercial one by China.

Dr Bonnie Glasser, senior fellow with the CSIS Freeman Chair in China Studies, said foreign oil companies would see "very high potential for some kind of conflict".

"I think that they will think twice before they would want to participate in bidding at this point . . . large companies like Chevron would be quite reluctant," she said.

Addressing the seminar on June 28, US Senator Joe Liberman (D-Connecticut) said the Chinese Corporation's announcement to invite international bids for nine oil and gas blocks within Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone was "quite provocative".

"On its face," he said, "it's an unprecedented and unfounded claim that's within an economic zone recognised by international law that is Viet Nam's."

The senator believed that it was "a response to the Viet Nam asserting its own legal rights by domestic law just last week".

At the seminar, academics from China, Viet Nam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, India, Japan and the US discussed issues relating to recent developments in the East Sea, US-China-ASEAN relations and international laws and practices when solving disputes.

Kunt Campell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, also attended the event. — VNS

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