|Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Phạm Bình Minh responded to questions at the meeting with the press in Hà Nội on Tuesday. — VNA/VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam would remain consistent in its policies regarding the South China Sea, which seek to respect international law, especially UNCLOS 1982, as well as welcome and promote initiatives for the maintenance of peace and stability in the area.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Phạm Bình Minh made the remarks yesterday during a press conference in Hà Nội to discuss diplomatic activities of Việt Nam in 2018 and orientations for 2019.
Noting that the “East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea) is a common concern and actions that could give way to conflicts and incidents must be avoided,” the Vietnamese diplomat said any incident in the South China Sea would have implications for freedom of maritime trade and navigation as well as security and order in the region.
Foreign minister Minh said 2018 was a year of complex developments due to aggressive efforts to upset the status quo by building up and militarising the various uninhabited rocks in the disputed areas, which caused “serious concerns” that the East Sea would turn into a “flashpoint” where volatility could ignite conflicts that impact peace not just in the region, but also the entire Asia-Pacific.
Regarding the ongoing negotiation between China and ASEAN countries on the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC), Deputy PM Minh said the COC was a process embedded within the Declaration of Conduct of Parties signed nearly two decades ago in 2002.
“However, the COC process has been taking place slower than expected. In 2012, the year marking the tenth anniversary of the signing of the DOC, all countries involved expressed the hope that the COC would “soon” be concluded. But it was only in 2017-18 that negotiations started on the most fundamental components that make up the COC, and no text has been produced so far,” he said.
The COC must be legally binding to ensure effective implementation of the provisions, he stressed, pointing out that various items in the DOC have not been observed faithfully by parties involved.
Responding to press queries on reported leaked texts from the COC negotiations that show divisive and irreconcilable demands between ASEAN and China, he replied that negotiations between ASEAN and China remain strictly close-door matters and any speculation is mere guesswork.
Relations with power
Speaking on the strategic competition between global powers – including, but not limited to, the escalating situation between China and US, foreign minister Minh said it’s natural for powerful countries to seek support and alliances in other countries.
“Not only Việt Nam, but many other countries, would have to consider how to navigate the situation,” Minh said.
However, the country would steadfastly pursue the path of “independent diplomacy on the basis of multilateralisation of its relations and respect for international law,” and not support any action that could result in instability.
“Our ultimate goal is to maintain a peaceful and stable environment in the region to serve the country’s development,” he said.
Responding to questions on the relations between the US and Việt Nam under the scandal-plagued administration of President Donald Trump over the last year, foreign minister Minh noted that Việt Nam engages with both the Democratic and the Republican parties so bilateral relations would not be affected by leadership changes.
With regards to the country’s northern neighbour China, the diplomat noted that while 2018 didn’t witness as many high-level State visits between the two countries’ leaders as 2017, bilateral ties remain stable with China continuing to be the biggest trade partner of Việt Nam.
On the East Sea issue, which is the largest hurdle between the two sides, Việt Nam would continue to engage China on the three bilateral mechanisms – fostering co-operation on less sensitive issues, co-operation on the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and co-operation for mutual development.
On a lighter note, responding to the press’ questions on the impacts of the recent string of successes by the Vietnamese football team in regional tournaments on diplomatic works, Minh recounted stories of how other foreign ministers congratulated the country on the football successes in recent ASEAN meetings, proving that these achievements “boost the standing of Việt Nam and respect for the country, promoting Việt Nam’s profile.”
“I am filled with joy and pride when our national team win, or even when they lost against rivals of higher levels, the team manifested a resilient and unyielding spirit that represent the Vietnamese people,” he said, adding that he personally hadn’t missed any of the match.
The diplomat also added that the South Korean coach for the Vietnamese national football team has already become an honourable citizen in the heart of Vietnamese fans.
At the meeting, several diplomatic issues were also raised, including Việt Nam’s participation in the United Nations’ peacekeeping efforts, the country’s bid for the non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Việt Nam’s preparations for its chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020, and citizen protection activities in 2018. — VNS