|Spokesperson for the foreign ministry Lê Thị Thu Hằng. — Photo from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam on Thursday condemned China’s newly announced military drill near its Hoàng Sa (Paracels) archipelago as a serious violation of the country’s sovereignty.
Spokesperson for the foreign ministry Lê Thị Thu Hằng made the comment during the press briefing in Hà Nội, in response to a military drill held between August 6-10 in the northern part of the South China Sea (known in Việt Nam as the East Sea) between Hainan island and Paracel islands by unspecified arms/units of the People’s Liberation Army.
“As constantly reiterated, Việt Nam has sufficient legal grounds and historical evidence proving its sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa (Spratly) islands, in line with international law,” Hằng said.
The area marked for exercise covers 100,000 sq.km of water, including large parts of Hoàng Sa islands which belong to Việt Nam but much of it has currently been under China’s control after a violent seizure by Chinese forces back in the 1970s.
“China’s military exercise in the Hoàng Sa islands area constitute a serious violation of Việt Nam’s sovereignty, go against the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, complicating the situation and is not helpful to either the ongoing negotiations between China and ASEAN on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea nor the maintenance of peace and cooperation in the South China Sea,” the Vietnamese diplomat said.
“Việt Nam asks that China respects Việt Nam’s sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa islands, put an end to the act and not to repeat offences of similar nature that complicates the situation in the South China Sea,” the spokesperson stressed.
The exercise came as the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and related meetings are still ongoing, while Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi has insisted during a ASEAN-China session on Tuesday that the two sides have maintained “a stable situation in general and freedom of navigation and overflight have been protected by the law.”
He also called for vigilance against “some countries outside the region” that have become “biggest disruptors” in the sea in thinly veiled criticism of other international actors such as the US or EU in defiance of China’s vast claims of the resource-rich sea.
Regarding India's announcement of sending four warships to the South China Sea to participate in multilateral and bilateral exercises, including with Việt Nam, the spokesperson said Việt Nam’s consistent policy is that its maritime activities of countries inside and outside the region need to strictly comply with the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Any activity should make responsible contributions to the maintenance of peace, stability, security and safety, order, rules of law, and cooperation at sea for the sake of common interests, in line with the aspirations of countries in the region and the international community, the Vietnamese diplomat noted. — VNS