New law to underscore sovereignty

Update: June, 27/2012 - 09:50


Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.— File Photo

VGP – Following the adoption of the Viet Nam's Law on the Sea by the country's National Assembly on June 21, a VGP ( Vietnam Government Web Portal) reporter interviewed Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh on the content of the Law.

Reporter: Could you clarify the purpose and significance of the Viet Nam's Law on the Sea?

Foreign Minister Minh: As a coastal country, Viet Nam acceded to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1994. However, the country has yet to enact any law of the sea except some provisions in a few related legal documents.

The adoption of the Law on the Sea by the National Assembly is an important law-making step to perfect the country's legal framework to serve the utilisation, management and protection of Viet Nam's sea and islands as well as the development of sea-born economy, so as to facilitate its international integration and boost its co-operation with other countries for the sake of peace and stability in the region and the world.

With such adoption, for the first time our country has a law which fully covers the legal status of sea and islands under Viet Nam's sovereignty and sovereign rights in accordance with the UNCLOS. This is the important legal basis for the management, protection and development of our country's sea-born economy.

Having a long coastline and vast sea areas, the sea-born economy takes a very important role in our country's national construction and development. The building and promulgation of the Viet Nam Law on the Sea is the inevitable requirement for Viet Nam's economic development cause.

Reporter: Could you recapitulate the building process and major content of the Viet Nam's Law on the Sea?

The Vietnamese Law on the Sea, consisting of seven chapters and 55 articles, will take effect from January 1, 2013.

Chapter 1 covers provisions relating to scope and definitions.

Chapter 2 refers to provisions on Viet Nam's baseline, internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf, islands and archipelagos, etc.

Chapter 3 covers provisions on activities within Viet Nam's sea.

Chapter 4 covers the development of the sea-born economy.

Chapter 5 includes provisions on sea patrol.

Chapter 6 stipulates the settlement of violations.

Foreign Minister Minh: The process of building the Law on the Sea started in 1998 and it was considered in the past three working session of the National Assembly tenures 10, 11 and 12. The Vietnamese Law on the Sea incorporates large content having relations with various fields, thus requiring careful and thorough preparation. The Law was developed on the basis of the country's Constitution, the National Assembly's Resolution on ratification of the UNCLOS, statements of the Government in 1977 and 1982, summarisation of our country's sea management and of the implementation of the UNCLOS, and inked sea-related agreements. During the development process of the Law on the Sea, we gained experiences from other countries and took into account the interests of our country, the interests of concerned parties in the East Sea and the interests of the region as a whole.

The law has seven chapters, focusing on the following: principles and policies for management and protection of our sea and islands; scope and legal status of internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf; legal status of Viet Nam's islands and archipelagos; activities within Viet Nam's sea; search and rescue; protection of resources and marine environment; scientific research; sea-born economic development; patrol activities at sea; international marine co-operation.

Reporter: Under the current provisions, many ministries and agencies exercise management of sea and islands. So, does the Viet Nam's Law on the Sea stipulate the functions and missions of ministries and agencies in managing sea and islands.

Foreign Minister Minh: State management over sea and islands is a broad field as it relates to the functions of several ministries, agencies and localities across the country. At present, the scale and competence, as well as the co-ordination mechanism of ministries, agencies and other forces, are specifically stipulated in relevant legal documents and put under the unified regulation of the Government.

The Law on the Sea is a framework law which covers major principles for sea-related issues, thus the functions of each ministry and agency are not specifically stipulated here. The law stipulates that the Government exercises unified management over sea and islands. Ministries, agencies and localities exercise such management in their own authorised areas.

Reporter: How about sovereignty and sovereign rights over sea and islands?

Foreign Minister Minh: In accordance with the provisions of the UNCLOS, the Vietnamese Law on the Sea clearly states that Viet Nam's sea includes internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. Viet Nam exercises sovereignty over its internal waters and territorial sea; exercises national sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

Viet Nam's sovereignty over islands, including Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos, which had already been stipulated in existing laws like the 2003 Law on National Border, continues to be clarified in the Vietnamese Law on the Sea.

The Vietnamese Law on the Sea clearly states that every organisation and individual must respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and interests of Viet Nam, to comply with Viet Nam's legal regulations while conducting activities in our country's sea areas. All violations relating to Viet Nam's sea and islands shall be fined in line with the concerned provisions.

Reporter: Our country still has some divergences and disputes over sea and islands with some neighbouring countries. How is the issue mentioned in the Viet Nam's Law on the Sea?

Foreign Minister Minh: The Vietnamese Law on the Sea clearly stipulates that the State of Viet Nam is resolved to settle sea-related divergences and disputes with other countries through peaceful measures, on the basis of respecting national independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and in accordance with the UNCLOS, international legal status and practices.

This is our country's consistent guideline. We have been and will be keen on implementing the guideline. In fact, we have made some progress in settling disputes with neighbouring countries. For example, in 1997, Viet Nam and Thailand delimited an exclusive economic zone and continental shelf; in 2000, Viet Nam and China fixed a territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the Bac Bo (Tonkin) Gulf; in 2003, Viet Nam and Indonesia demarcated a continental shelf, etc.

I think that thanks to the adoption of the Law on the Sea by the National Assembly we have sent an important message to the international community: Viet Nam is a responsible member of the international community that respects and observes international law, especially the UNCLOS, striving for peace, stability, co-operation and development in the region and the world.–VGP