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Philippines-China joint oil activities in East Sea must follow int’l law: foreign ministry

Update: November, 23/2018 - 09:00
Deputy spokesperson for the Việt Nam Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nguyễn Phương Trà during a November 22 press briefing in Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Joint oil exploration between China and Philippines in the South China Sea (called East Sea by Việt Nam) can only be conducted in waters over which the two have sovereignty and sovereign rights as per international law.

Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nguyễn Phương Trà made the statement at the regular press briefing held Thursday in Hà Nội as she received inquiries regarding Việt Nam’s stance on an array of memoranda of understanding signed between the two countries during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Philippines, which include one on oil and gas development in the South China Sea, to which Việt Nam also lays claim.

The Chinese leader also expressed a desire to negotiate with other countries in the South China Sea on similar co-operation mechanisms.

“As a responsible member of the international community and a coastal country in the East Sea, Việt Nam attaches importance to international co-operation, including sea-based activities, with respect to each country’s sovereignty and legitimate benefits, in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), towards fostering peace, stability, development in the region, and the friendships between countries,” deputy spokesperson Trà said.

The joint exploration activities might pose compatibility issues with the Philippines’ Constitution, which states categorically that marine resources in the country’s exclusive economic zone must be used for the benefits of Filipino citizens only, wrote Prof. Herman Kraft from the University of Philippines’ Department of Political Sciences, in previous email correspondence with Việt Nam News.

East Sea complications

Responding to requests for comment on Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s remark that China and ASEAN’s negotiations on the Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea could be concluded in three years, deputy spokeperson Trà said that maintaining peace, security, stability, maritime and flight safety in the South China Sea is “in common interest” of parties involved.

In the face of recent complications in the sea, ASEAN has repeatedly expressed the need to soon reach the COC, but it’s important that the COC must be “effective, practical and binding,” Trà said.

China and ASEAN signed the milestone Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002, with the “single draft negotiating text” reached in August this year, which serves as the foundation for future negotiations on the COC.

In a related move, the foreign ministry said it heavily condemns China’s new installation of military equipment and buildings on Bombay Reef of Hoàng Sa (Paracel Islands) in the South China Sea.

“China’s continued activities on the Paracel Islands have seriously violated Việt Nam’s sovereignty over the islands, run counter to commitments made by the two countries’ high-level leadership to the fundamental principles regarding the activities, and the DOC 2002,” deputy spokesperson Trà said.

“Việt Nam vehemently objects to China’s actions and demands that China immediately stop and do not repeat activities of similar nature,” she stressed.

North Korea’s visit

Responding to queries on the alleged upcoming visit to Việt Nam by North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, on November 27, the foreign ministry spokesperson, without directly confirming the trip, said the ministry would make an announcement regarding its external activities “at an appropriate time.”

However, she added that the arrangements for the visit are still underway and the actual date might be later than November 27.

The North Korean official previously visited Hà Nội in 2014, at the invitation of his Vietnamese counterpart, foreign minister Phạm Bình Minh.

It is reported that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un might be interested in modelling their economic reforms after Việt Nam’s efforts at achieving a socialist-oriented market economy, which has resulted in robust growth for the Southeast Asian country over past decades. — VNS

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