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Vision needed for East Sea stability

Update: November, 24/2015 - 09:08
More than 200 local and international academics and representatives of diplomatic corps in the country are attending the event, co-hosted by the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam, the Foundation for East Sea Studies (FESS) and the Viet Nam Lawyers Association. — Photo zing.vn

BA RIA-VUNG TAU (VNS) — Southeast Asian countries must develop a long-term vision to build peace, stability and development in the region, particularly in light of the ongoing East Sea (South China Sea) dispute, speakers said at an international conference that opened yesterday in the southern coastal city of Vung Tau.

The two-day 7th annual South China Sea (East Sea) International Conference on Cooperation for Regional Security and Development is providing an opportunity to assess the current situation in the East Sea from an interdisciplinary perspective.

More than 200 local and international academics and representatives of diplomatic corps in the country are attending the event, co-hosted by the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam, the Foundation for East Sea Studies (FESS) and the Viet Nam Lawyers Association.

In his opening speech, Dang Dinh Quy, president of the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam, said in an ever-globalised world, the importance of the East Sea to the security and development for the region and the world would continue to grow.

He said recent views on East Sea-related issues were contradictory. "Some say the East Sea is enjoying peace, stability and free navigation and aviation. Others say peace, stability and free transport are seriously threatened, and conflicts may occur if concerned parties do not constrain themselves and make greater cooperative efforts," he said.

Quy pointed out that the environment in the East Sea had become worse, thus reducing marine resources and changing the status quo. The balance of power between those directly involved in the East Sea was also changing rapidly.

Many serious incidents have taken place in the East Sea recently, weakening confidence among concerned parties, he said.

Tension in the East Sea has jeopardised the lives and livelihoods of millions of fishermen who have worked in many traditional fishing grounds in the East Sea for thousands of years. It has also disturbed the stability, security and development of the entire region, he added.

Quy said sovereignty disputes in the East Sea should be addressed via peaceful solutions in accordance with international law, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) towards the building of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

He asked participants to develop new proposals and continue contributions to ensuring peace and stability in the East Sea.

He said that state leaders should carefully consider the interest of their nations before deciding to undertake actions regarding the East Sea in order to establish effective mechanisms to control disputes and conflicts at sea.

Also speaking at the conference, Nguyen Hong Linh, secretary of the Provincial Party Committee of Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province, said: "More than ever, the current situation in the East Sea is posing an urgent demand for a long-term solution to regional disputes".

Linh said that countries should enhance maritime cooperation and maintain economic, trade and tourism ties, and ensure the safety of fishermen.

He also suggested seeking contributions from coastal localities of countries in safeguarding peace and accelerating cooperation in the East Sea.

Carl Thayer, a specialist in Southeast Asia and professor of politics at University of New South Wales, said the situation in the South China Sea (East Sea) should be supported with freedom of navigation and pressure on China not to militarise the islands.

China wants to be a dominant power. Its aim is to exclude the US politically from the region and to make the Southeast Asian countries accommodate China, Thayer said.

Carl Thayer (left), a specialist in Southeast Asia and professor of politics at University of New South Wales, said the situation in the South China Sea (East Sea) should be supported with freedom of navigation and pressure on China not to militarise the islands. — Photo vnexpess.net

In a seperate interview with Viet Nam News, Prince Michael of Liechtenstein, founder of the Geopolitical Information Services (GIS) agreed on China's ambition, adding that the US, meanwhile, does not want to have China becoming too strong in the Pacific.

"It (the South China Sea dispute) is a bigger game and very dangerous because the competition between China and the US can escalate at any time," he said.

The ASEAN, for its part, should have an opinion on the dispute and support Viet Nam and the Philippines, particularly, in their interests, he added.

Patrick Cronin, senior advisor and senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security programme at the Centre for a New American Security (CNAS), said that all countries had a responsibility to uphold international law.

In the South China Sea (East Sea), both claimant states and maritime states that transit the international body of water have an obligation to find peaceful ways to resolve disputes free of coercion and the use of force, he added.

"The US can play a key role in its bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, supporting regional and international institutions, maintaining a military presence and increasing activities in response to circumstances, and assisting the building of capacity of allies and friends who share a concern about stability and order," he said.

One of the most obvious affronts to a rule-based order is China's nine-dash line claim to the East Sea.

Beijing deliberately keeps this claim ambiguous rather than attempt to clarify it on the basis of contemporary international law and then uses that ambiguity as a rationale for its assertiveness, including its recent massive island-building programme, Cronin said.

"We hope to convince China to abide by regional norms, rules, and standards. We hope China sees that its assertiveness only creates reactions that drive up tensions and undermine China's reputation as a trustworthy diplomatic partner," he added.

Meanwhile, Prof. Shen Dingli, Associate Dean at Fudan University's Institute of International Studies, said the current situation in the East Sea was now "largely peaceful" and that "nobody blocks freedom of navigation".

Dingli said the talk on a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) consultation was ongoing. "I hope this will lead to an eventual legally-bound institution soon. This would ensure that the dispute over the South China Sea (East Sea) will be handled peacefully."

Young Leaders

For the first time at the conference, the Young Leaders Programme is providing exceptional opportunities for young researchers and PhD candidates to network and contribute their ideas on how to foster cooperation in the East Sea.

The Young Leaders Group will present a joint initiative to enhance cooperation in the East Sea during the sixth session.

The conference today will discuss the role of international law in the East Sea dispute as well as settlement, delimitation of China's influence and the so-called nine-dash line, and cooperative development in the East Sea.

In recent years, the East Sea situation has emerged as one of the most important security issues in East Asia, resulting in regional instabilities. — VNS

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