|Delegates discuss at the SOM ARF meeting in Myanmar on June 9. — Photo VNA
HA NOI (VNS)— The Senior Officials' Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (SOM ARF) kicked off yesterday in Myanmar, dedicating a significant amount of attention to the current situation in the East Sea.
Representatives from 27 ARF countries, the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat expressed deep concern regarding the escalating tensions in the East Sea while gathering in Yangon.
The delegates underscored the need to exercise restraint, while strongly condemning unilateral actions that infringed international law, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).
They also highlighted the necessity to strictly adhere to international law, the 1982 UNCLOS and the DOC, and working towards the formation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea.
Addressing the event, Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh stressed the importance of peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea, saying they were common concerns of countries within and outside the region.
He said serious violations were taking place in the East Sea, with China's illegal deployment of its oil rig and a large number of surrounding ships to Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf since the beginning of May.
Chinese ships have continuously conducted provocative actions; ramming and firing water cannons at Vietnamese law enforcement vessels and damaging a number of Viet Nam's fisheries surveillance, coast guard and fishing ships, he said.
He said China's actions were a grave breach of international law and the 1982 UNCLOS, had elevated tensions in the East Sea and directly harmed peace, stability and maritime security and safety in the sea.
Viet Nam requested China immediately recall the rig and all of its ships from Vietnamese waters, Vinh stressed.
Viet Nam would resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and waters, Vinh said, adding that the country had exercised the utmost restraint and consistently used dialogue and peaceful measures in accordance with international law to demand China withdraw its oil rig and escort ships.
He voiced the serious compliance with international law and the UNCLOS 1982, supported the full and effective observance of DOC regulations, and stressed the urgent need to complete the COC to ensure peace, stability, security and safety of navigation in the East Sea.
Regarding ARF's future direction, Deputy Minister Vinh asked the forum to pay special attention to building trust amidst the backdrop of escalating competition between big countries in the region and complex traditional and non-traditional security challenges.
ARF needed to further promote the principles of trust, equality, mutual respect and compliance with international law, said Vinh, adding that the forum also needed to facilitate the development and sharing of common standards of conduct to ensure regional peace, security, stability, cooperation and development.
China yesterday "continued perverting" international law by sending two more military ships to the area around rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 that illegally placed in Viet Nam's waters, said the Viet Nam Fisheries Surveillance Department.
The department said the warships patrolling the site now numbered six. Two operate in the east, two in the west and the other two have taken defensive positions to the south of the rig.
At the same time, about 36 coastguard vessels, 21 cargo ships and tugboats and 44 fishing vessels have also been filmed, together with a reconnaissance aircraft flying as low as 300-500m above the rig.
The Chinese fleet formed groups and formed circles around the rig to prevent Vietnamese law-enforcement vessels about 11 nautical miles away.
They also aggressively rammed and fired water cannons at Vietnamese coastguard and fishing vessels, said the department.
However, Vietnamese law-enforcement authorities "resolutely maintained their intensive activities" close to the rig to demand China stop its illegal actions and remove the oil rig from Viet Nam's waters, according to the department.
Meanwhile, the department said Vietnamese fishermen continued fishing despite China's intimidation.
At the beginning of May, China illegally set up the rig and set a large fleet of armed vessels, military ships and aircraft to Viet Nam's waters.
It positioned at 15 degrees 29 minutes 58 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 12 minutes 06 seconds east longitude, 80 miles inside Viet Nam's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.
On June 3, the oil rig moved to another new position, at 15 degrees 33 minutes 36 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 34 minutes 11 seconds east longitude.
The new position is still completely within Viet Nam's continental shelf. — VNS