|Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Phạm Quang Vinh delivered the opening speech at the national conference on the East Sea (South China Sea) held in Quảng Ninh Province on Wednesday. — VNS Photo Trọng Kiên|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam has always strived towards protecting the integrity of its maritime sovereignty in tandem with maintaining friendly relations with all countries, enabling a peaceful environment for the national economy to take off.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Phạm Quang Vinh made the statement at the National Conference on the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea) held on Wednesday in the northern coastal province of Quảng Ninh to discuss regional and global issues and Việt Nam’s policies.
In the opening address, deputy minister Vinh noted that in the last 10 years, the presence and competition among the world’s great-powers is “having complicated and unpredictable effects” on the South China Sea and the building of mutually agreed upon code of conduct to uphold order and security in the region.
He noted the East Sea issue is not just about territorial disputes between claimant states, but also about legal compliance, maritime and airspace security, transport connectivity, or resource-exploitation co-operation.
Expressing satisfaction with recent focus on expediting the negotiations between ASEAN and China on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea, he warned of rifts and in the approach to the issue among ASEAN member countries and how it could affect Việt Nam’s cause.
It is necessary to regularly update the developments in the East Sea to put forth appropriate response policies, he suggested.
The diplomat also spoke of the international tribunal’s ruling in the South China Sea case in 2016, set up under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) 1982, which invalidates China’s expansive claim over much of the waters in the so-called ‘nine-dash line’, pokes hole in its historic rights and marine entitlements and delivers a conclusive remark on the illegality of China’s actions in the area.
Without explicitly referring to China’s categorical rejection of the arbitration award and the Philippines’ lacklustre efforts to uphold the ruling’s relevance while it was the one initiated the case against China and finally had the ruling overwhelmingly in its favour, deputy minister Vinh said “the parties involved either rejecting or giving up on the ruling” would have untoward implications to international law compliance in the disputed waters.
With the competition between powerful countries in the East Sea, causing international law to play a diminished role in regulating the behaviours of each concerned party, he asked delegates to focus on how Việt Nam can ideally navigate these new developments.
This has been the third national conference on the East Sea, with the first one held in 2009 and the second in 2011.
In the four closed-door sessions, more than 70 senior lawmakers and long-time maritime experts and researchers discussed new developments and new mindset over sea matters, the rallying of forces, legal issues – especially the prospect of China-Philippines joint exploration in the oil and gas-rich East Sea, the role of the East Sea in regional order, and the role of the East Sea in Việt Nam’s maritime strategy to 2030 as well as prospects for multilateral co-operation in the East Sea. — VNS