|Nearly 100 Vietnamese and foreign researchers gathered at a conference titled "Hoang Sa - Truong Sa: The Historical Truth" held in central Da Nang City yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Tran Le Lam
DA NANG (VNS) — Viet Nam and regional countries should raise world alarm about China's nine-dash claim to much of the South China Sea (East Sea), retired French general Daniel Schaeffer told reporters on the sideline of a conference on the Paracel and Spratly Archipelagos in Da Nang yesterday.
Schaeffer, who is an expert on Chinese issues at France's Asia Research Centre said China wanted to seize more sea within the U-shaped line claim it had marked out and then force other countries in the region to recognise the claim.
"Viet Nam and regional countries should drum up the world community about the China's claims," Schaeffer said.
"It needs efforts to delete the claim before solving any disputes of sovereignty. The best way of solving the problem is by raising international alarm," he said.
He warned that China was mounting a worldwide communication campaign to back its claims.
Professor Renato De Castro from the International Studies Department at De La Salle University in the Philippines said China had never given an explanation of its nine-dash line.
He said global opinion played an important role in dealing with legal territorial disputes and required China respect the international law.
Jerome Cohen, professor and co-director of US-Asia Law Institute, said Viet Nam should use adjudication to challenge China's claims to sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracels).
He said that unless the parties agreed upon another impartial institution, Viet Nam would have to go before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
He added: "China will surely not consent to an ICJ effort, since unlike the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) situation, China had no treaty commitment to accept ICJ jurisdiction in any dispute. Yet Viet Nam may nevertheless find it worthwhile to try to invoke the aid for the ICJ, not only placate domestic opinion but also to demonstrate to the world its sincere desire for a peaceful impartial settlement.
"Viet Nam should make plain its willingness to submit to the ICJ its territorial claim over the Truong Sa (Spratlys), including those islands and other features that it currently occupies."
"We have long known that many disputes relating to the South China Sea are far too complex to allow for simple solutions. At least several methods of dispute resolution will be necessary for dealing with different times, places and issues.
"In principles, of course, negotiation, whether multilateral or bilateral, remains preeminent. Yet, as it is obvious to all, negotiation has its limits and often needs to be supplemented," he said.
"I plead for the disputing countries to give higher priority to the role international adjudication and arbitration may play in the settlement process.
"China and Viet Nam have successfully negotiated boundary disputes in the Gulf of Tonkin and on their land border, but China maintains that sovereignty over the maritime features is not open for discussion."
In a media brief, he said: "There are several choices and possibilities for Viet Nam. It's the Law of the sea system, ICJ, International Court of Arbitration or regional institutions. Asian countries could make their own institution to settle disputes in the region," he suggested.
Erik Franckx, research professor from Vrije University Brussels, Belgium, said Viet Nam could take China to court for a clear definition of the nine-dash line.
The conference, which was organised by Da Nang University and Quang Ngai-based Pham Van Dong University, is being attended by 100 scholars and lawyers from the US, Australia, France, German, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Taipei, the Philippines, India, Korea, Japanese, overseas Vietnamese and Vietnamese historical researchers.
The rector at Pham Van Dong University, Pham Dang Phuoc, also the conference co-chairman, said the event was a follow up to a conference last year in Quang Ngai Province.
He said it was held to discuss China's illegal placement of an oil rig in Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf on May 2.
The conference continues today with an exhibition of artifacts and evidence from the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.
An exhibition of historical evidence establishing Viet Nam's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos opened in the northern port city of Hai Phong yesterday.
On display is a series of maps, atlases and documents in Chinese, French and Vietnamese issued by Vietnamese states and the Chinese people from the 15th to the 20th century.
All confirm Viet Nam's sovereignty over the islands and indicate that the islands have never historically belonged to China.
Chinese planes buzz
Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew low above Vietnamese law enforcement vessels operating near China's illegally placed drilling rig, the Haiyang Shiyou-981, inside Viet Nam's waters.
According to Vietnam News Agency reporters at the site, a Z-9C helicopter bearing the number 9237 flew 150m-200m above the Vietnamese ships.
Later a SU-30MKK fighter plane and a reconnaissance craft circled above Vietnamese coast guard and fisheries surveillance vessels.
When the Vietnamese ships were about 10 nautical miles from the rig, three Chinese coast guard ships, a fisheries administration vessel and a tugboat sped towards them and attempted to ram them.
The Vietnamese law-enforcement vessels tried to dodge them, but stayed at the site to demand the Chinese side withdraw the rig and take its ships out of Viet Nam's waters.
Viet Nam's fisheries surveillance staff also detected two mine-sweepers near the rig site.
China has illegally positioned the rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 inside Viet Nam's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone since May 2.
It has also deployed a large fleet of armed vessels, military ships and aircraft to protect the rig.
China's armed vessels aggressively fired high-power water cannons at and intentionally rammed against Vietnamese public-service and civil ships, causing damage to many boats and injuring many people on board. — VNS