|Deputy foreign ministry spokesperson Nguyễn Phương Trà responded to questions from the media during a press conference held in Hà Nội on Thursday. — VNA/VNS Photo Dương Giang|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam welcomed San Francisco’s landmark verdict against Monsanto and called upon the company to pay compensation for Agent Orange victims in Việt Nam, deputy foreign ministry spokesperson Nguyễn Phương Trà told a press briefing in Hà Nội on Thursday.
“The verdict serves as a legal precedent which refutes previous claims that the herbicides made by Monsanto and other chemical corporations in the US and provided for the US army in the war are harmless,” Trà said in response to the media’s queries on the Vietnamese Government’s reaction to the decision by a US court asking that Monsanto pay US$289 million to an American citizen who claimed that the company’s weed killer contained undisclosed carcinogens.
“Việt Nam has suffered tremendous consequences from the war, especially with regard to the lasting and devastating effects of toxic chemicals, including Agent Orange,” Trà said, referring to a heavily controversial herbicide and defoliant manufactured by the Missouri-based agrobusiness multinational and used extensively by the US Army during the war in Việt Nam in the 1960-70s, which have shown links to widespread illnesses and birth defects among those exposed to it.
Up to 80 million litres of herbicides were sprayed over an area comparable to one fourth of southern Việt Nam, destroying the natural environment and leaving three million Vietnamese grappling with health issues.
South China Sea
Responding to press queries on the Vietnamese Government’s reaction to Chinese Taiwan’s live fire drills in Ba Bình (Itu Aba) island as well as allegations of Chinese deployment of nuclear weapons in the South China Sea, the foreign ministry official reaffirmed Việt Nam’s full legal and historical evidence for its sovereignty claims over the Trường Sa (Spratly) archipelago.
Việt Nam protests any act that disrupts peace and stability and complicates the situation in the South China Sea (called East Sea by Việt Nam), and demands the offending parties cease and not repeat such actions in the future, deputy spokesperson Trà said.
“Maintaining peace, stability, maritime security and overflight freedom are mutual responsibilities and duties of all countries in the region and in the world. All concerned parties have the obligation to contribute to these causes,” Trà said. Earlier yesterday, the government of the Philippines expressed concerns over ‘US observation’ on alleged possible introduction of nuclear weapons in the South China Sea, and stressed that the region is a nuclear-free zone.
On whether the recent arrests of anti-State criminals, which include American citizens and Vietnamese citizens, would affect the relationship between the two countries, Trà said that any person, no matter their citizenship, who violate Vietnamese law within Vietnamese territory would be subject to appropriate legal punishments.
Concerning the ongoing trial against Đoàn Thị Hương, who allegedly murdered the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) citizen Kim Chol, the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia has said Hương is supposed to defend herself in front of the court on three occasions in January and February next year.
The Vietnamese Embassy is currently working with Hương’s lawyers to prepare her defence, and is willing to help Hương’s family in Việt Nam to come to Malaysia should they wish, Trà said. — VNS