|Deputy Defence Minister Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh spoke with Vietnamese media in an interview on sidelines of the 14th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. — VNA/VNS Photo Le Hai
HA NOI (VNS) — The East Sea issue was a regional and global concern, Deputy Defence Minister Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh told the Vietnam News Agency
in an interview on Saturday, on the sidelines of the 14th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
He said while the issue had attracted concerns from many countries ever since the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2010, this year there was a slightly difference in the approach for many reason, first of all the many reports on the change of status-quo on the East Sea, adding that just several days before the dialogue, it was also reported that China had taken the first step in militarising artificial islands that the country was building illegally in the East Sea.
The deputy minister noted that during the Shangri-La Dialogue, almost all opinions, including those directly presented at the dialogue or at sideline meetings, mentioned the East Sea issue.
Participating parties were concerned about conflicts, violations of international law and big countries' unfair behaviour towards small nations, he said, adding that all opinions expressed desires for appropriate measures to prevent more complicated and serious developments from happening in the East Sea.
According to the officer, along with hopes for peace and stability, participants put forward solutions along the general direction of seeking appropriate behaviour, no infringement of international law, and particularly, preventing conflicts from arising.
He said all opinions called for a substantive Code of Conduct (COC), which should be able to ensure observance of international law and respect for the rights and interests of relevant countries.
"The general direction of the region and the world is similar to Viet Nam's basic viewpoint on the issue, which underlined the need to address all disputes by peaceful measures on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and in line with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), while together with ASEAN and China striving for the COC," the deputy defence minister said.
This year's Shangri-La Dialogue offered a venue for participants to discuss regional security, and both traditional and non-traditional challenges, the minister said, stressing that all countries attending the dialogue wanted to contribute their opinions on ways to reduce security threats, with many voices calling for shifting from dialogue and talks to practical co-operation among countries in the Asia Pacific region, making the region more stable and peaceful.
Regarding Viet Nam's participation at the event, he said although not delivering a speech at the dialogue, the Vietnamese delegation paid close attention to the voices of all participants.
The delegation also held a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the event to discuss emerging issues, including strategies and the interference of world powers, and the East Sea issue, he said.
Through the meetings, Viet Nam got a better understanding about general trends in the region, while expressing the official views of the Party and State on current regional and international issues.
At the same time, Viet Nam also focused on fostering bilateral partnerships at the meetings, as well as specific measures to bolster ties with other countries, said Vinh.
He revealed that during talks with China, the two sides discussed ways to realise commitments made by the two Defence Ministers at their recent exchange, as well as a number of issues related to co-operation on personnel training and peace-keeping operations.
The two sides also looked at preparations for a defence dialogue at deputy ministerial level in Ha Noi in September this year, which aimed to strengthen bilateral relations and settle existing differences, especially maritime issues, he noted.
Viet Nam had held frank discussions with the Chinese side about the country's concerns relating to the East Sea, while making constructive recommendations on how to avoid escalating tensions, Vinh said.
He went on to say that Viet Nam had stressed that the East Sea issue should be settled on the basis of international law, and each side must control their behaviour, which the Chinese side took note of.
A bilateral meeting with the Philippine delegation took place at a remarkable time when naval soldiers from both countries were playing volleyball matches on Song Tu Dong Island in the Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago, which, according to Sen. Lieut. Gen. Vinh, demonstrated that the militaries of both countries had maintained friendship, even when they both claimed sovereignty over Truong Sa.
During other meetings, the Vietnamese delegation reiterated the Party and State's stance on the East Sea issue, affirming that Viet Nam had remained true to its principles, and practised utmost restraint to avoid actions that could complicate the situation.
Deputy Chief of the General Staff of China's People's Liberation Army Sun Jianguo told the 14th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore yesterday that the situation on the East Sea was generally peaceful and stable.
Addressing the event, the Chinese representative repeatedly said China pursued a consistent policy of being a responsible world power abiding by international principles.
He said the principles of the UN Charter must be observed, which was the only way to develop peacefully, adding that win-win co-operation should be the final goal towards peace and stability.
Sun Jianguo said China's constructions on islands in the East Sea were mainly for the purpose of improving the functions of the relevant islands and reefs, and the working and living conditions of personnel stationed there.
He also argued that the move was made so that China could fulfil its international responsibility in search and rescue operations, natural disaster prevention, scientific research and environmental protection.
He said China had exercised enormous restraint, making positive contributions to peace and stability in the region and the world at large.
However, the Chinese representative declined to respond to direct questions by many delegates on China's deployment of weapon to islands in the East Sea and requests for a clear and transparent explanation for its moves in the sea, giving the excuse of a shortage of time.
The 14th Shangri-La Dialogue ended in Singapore yesterday with a message that more dialogue was needed to build trust and transparency.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Layen said this was the first time German had joined the dialogue, which gave the country an opportunity to exchange experience and learn from other countries.
She highlighted that transparency and trust building was key to co-operation, adding that together with security structure and mutual benefit, they were the pillars for successful partnerships.
Sharing Layen's opinion, New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said his country attached much importance to the maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity in the region. New Zealand wished to engage more closely in regional security through bilateral and multilateral dialogues at all levels, he said.
He also expressed concerns over tensions in the East Sea, stressing that his country was willing to join hands to seeking ways to settle disputes at sea.
The East Sea was one of the busiest maritime and aviation routes in the world, he noted, adding that one half of New Zealand's trade volume was transported through the sea. He emphasised the significance of enhancing transparency in the context of intensifying military actions in the region. He added that all countries should abide by international law.
Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said Asia was proving its role as the speediest developing region in the world in terms of trade, finance and defence.
However, the region faced a number of urgent challenges, including extremist terrorism, trans-border human trafficking and cyber security, he noted.
The Singaporean minister pointed to the need for all regional countries to build a consensus to avoid conflict and seek common solutions in line with maintaining peace and security in the region.
He also called for all parties to exercise restraint and not to conduct actions that could accelerate tension both at sea and in the sky.
Speaking to a Vietnam News Agency correspondent after the dialogue, John Chipman, Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said this year's event saw considerable straightforward speeches by defence chiefs, many of whom mentioned the East Sea issue as well as the urgent need for the early conclusion and signing of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea between ASEAN and China.
The defence ministers expressed the necessity to make more efforts to find measures to build trust with each other as well as with the rest of the world, he held.
The 14th Shangri-La Dialogue gathered nearly 500 delegates from 38 countries, territories and international organisations. — VNS