Distorted information on South China Sea doesn't change facts: spokesperson

April 09, 2021 - 07:52

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' spokesperson has condemned content falsely portraying the South China Sea issue.


Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lê Thị Thu Hằng at Thursday press briefing in Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo Phạm Kiên

HÀ NỘI — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' spokesperson on Thursday condemned content falsely portraying the South China Sea issue.

Any content that falsely reflects history and international laws is invalid and cannot change the reality that Việt Nam enjoys sovereignty over the Trường Sa (Spratly) and Hoàng Sa (Paracel) islands and the underlying South China Sea issue, foreign spokesperson Lê Thị Thu Hằng said.

She made the remarks during a press briefing in Hà Nội after Vietnamese citizens called for boycotts of several international fashion brands using a map with China’s unlawful nine-dash line, a representation of the country's expansive claim over much of the South China Sea (known in Việt Nam as the East Sea), including the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa islands.

The claim has been met with a strong rebuke from the international community and especially claimant states involved in the disputes, including Việt Nam.

The Vietnamese backlash started after the Swedish multinational clothing retailer H&M agreed to "rectify" a map it used on its website in China following Chinese authorities’ requests.

While neither side revealed details of the problem with the map or how the company changed it, posts claiming that H&M has complied with the order including a graphic with the nine-dash line became widely shared on Chinese social media, which eventually reached the Vietnamese online community.

Many Vietnamese users pointed out that the problematic map is also embedded on the Chinese websites of several other fashion brands including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Zara.

“Businesses operating in Việt Nam need to respect and observe Vietnamese laws,” the Vietnamese foreign spokesperson said.

“Việt Nam requests that all businesses respect its sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly islands, and its sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant waters in the South China Sea,” the diplomat added.

She reiterated that Việt Nam has a full historical basis and legal grounds over the two islands as determined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Most businesses use Google Maps on their website, but since Google products are not available in mainland China, businesses operating there have to embed Chinese-owned map services, with the most popular being Baidu.

Regarding recent developments in the South China Sea, especially rising tension between the US and China, Hằng emphasised that “peace, stability, co-operation, and development in the sea is the shared aspiration and goal of all countries in the region and the international community at large.”

The respect for maritime rules-based order at sea and the implementation of the UNCLOS 1982, with a high sense of responsibility and goodwill, will be important to realise these objectives, she said.

“Việt Nam calls on all countries to contribute to the maintenance of peace, stability, and co-operation in the South China Sea, continue to adhere to international laws in goodwill including the UNCLOS 1982, strictly comply with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea between ASEAN and China (DOC) – in particular exercising restraint and avoiding escalating of tensions, creating an environment conducive to the negotiations of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct (COC), thus contributing to building trust, maintaining trust and stability, promoting the international order at sea and ensuring security, safety, and maritime freedom in the South China Sea,” Hằng stated.

Foreign relations

In response to a question over Việt Nam's foreign relations under its new leadership, especially with China and the US, the foreign spokesperson said that policies were clearly identified in the documents adopted at the 13th National Party Congress held earlier this year.

Việt Nam will be consistent with its foreign policy of independence, sovereignty, diversification and multilateralisation, Hằng said.

“We will further strengthen relations with our partners, especially important partners, with added depth, efficiency and sustainability, and increased intertwined interests,” she continued.

The entire political system of Việt Nam, including the Vietnamese Government, will be carrying out foreign policy in this direction, Hằng stressed.

Vaccine passports

Regarding the projected timeline of Việt Nam’s COVID-19 vaccine passport, the foreign spokesperson noted that so far, Việt Nam has not put in place a different immigration protocol for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, relevant authorities in Việt Nam under the instruction of the Prime Minister are working together to study and evaluate the possibility and propose recommendations regarding the “vaccine passport” scheme that is being implemented in a number of countries.

The foreign ministry is working with different State agencies to learn from other countries to formulate appropriate immigration policies to realise the dual goals of pandemic containment and promoting socio-economic development, she said. — VNS