Viet Nam condemns China at Law of the Sea meeting

Update: June, 16/2014 - 08:51
Vietnam News Agency reporters yesterday took this picture of a Chinese ship, one of more than 120 vessels that are protecting the oil rig illegally placed within Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. — VNA/VNS Photo Khanh Hieu–Quang Vu

NEW YORK — Viet Nam has again asked China to withdraw its drilling rig and accompanying vessels from Vietnamese waters, Ambassador Le Hoai Trung, Permanent Representative of Viet Nam to the United Nations, has said.

Addressing the plenary session of the 24th meeting of states and parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in New York on Friday, Trung also demanded China settle disputes through negotiations and other peaceful means in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS.

As head of the Vietnamese delegation, the diplomat also called for continued attention by the international community, including UNCLOS members to the situation in the East Sea.

He also asked them to oppose unilateral acts that created tensions.

Trung asked for the international community's support against the use of force in the settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, including the UNCLOS 1982.

The Vietnamese diplomat said as "a Constitution for the Oceans", the convention embodied tremendous efforts of the international community to establish an equitable international legal order for the use, exploitation, management and sustainable development of the oceans and seas.

He said Viet Nam had signed the convention the first day it was open for signature, adding that in past years, it has made serious efforts to comply with the provisions of UNCLOS and contribute to maintaining peace, stability in the East Sea area, a seaborne transport route for commercial goods.

Trung also briefed the meeting on developments in the East Sea since May 2, when China illegally placed the giant Haiyang Shiyou 981 drilling rig 80 nautical miles deep into the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Viet Nam.

The rig was accompanied by a large number of vessels, including military ships and military aircraft, he said, adding that Chinese vessels had intentionally rammed and fired water cannons at Vietnamese civilian law enforcement vessels and fishing boats and even sank one Vietnamese fishing boat with 10 fishermen on board.

The ambassador said Viet Nam had exercised the utmost restraint and made repeated proposals, including more than 30 communications at various levels with China, requesting it to immediately withdraw its oil rig and accompanying vessels.

At a discussion session, the Vietnamese delegation confirmed Viet Nam's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago and pointed out the illegality of China's placement of the rig deep inside Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. Delegation members rejected distorted viewpoints presented by China at the meeting.

At the event, delegates from Japan, the Philippines and Malaysia voiced concern over the complex developments in the East Sea, calling for nations involved to exercise restraint, not to threaten or use force and to deal with disputes through peaceful measures in compliance with international law and the UNCLOS.

They also asked them to strictly abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea and quickly finalise the Code of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea.

Singapore workshop

International law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, must be the bedrock for solving territorial disputes in the East Sea.

This was the common opinion voiced by scholars at the third workshop on US-Japan Relations and Southeast Asia Dialogue held in Singapore last Friday.

They voiced particular concern over new security developments in Southeast Asia, particularly China's provocative attitude and actions when settling territorial disputes with its neighbours.

The scholars agreed that China's defiance of international law and regulations and threats of violence were worrying ASEAN member countries and the international community, potentially causing instability to regional security.

The situation required ASEAN to unite and introduce more effective cooperation mechanisms, they said, adding that in addition to internal forces, support from the US and Japan was an important factor helping balance China's bellicose attitude.

The head of the Vietnamese delegation, Hoang Anh Tuan, Director of the Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies, briefed participants on the latest East Sea developments.

He focused on clarifying both the imminent and long-term impact of China's acts on regional peace and stability, and on the interests of the parties involved.

Tuan called on nations inside and outside the region to speak out and force China to restrain itself and unconditionally withdraw its rig from Viet Nam's waters, as well as abide by international law and work together with ASEAN members towards the formation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea.

Proof in Austria

The Austria's National Library has an ancient document that is evidence of Viet Nam's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago, Dr Afred Gerstl from the Vienna University's East Asian Studies Institute said last week.

Addressing a seminar on the East Sea organised by the Austria-Viet Nam Friendship Association at Austria's Diplomatic Academy, he said Viet Nam sovereignty claim was based on the 1982 UNCLOS and historical documents from the reign of King Le Thanh Tong in the 15th century, which were reconfirmed by France in 1884.

He presented his analysis of the location of China's oilrig as a violation of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and spoke about the moves and intentions of countries concerned such as Viet Nam, China, the Philippines as well as the US, Japan, India, and Russia.

He also analysed the role of ASEAN in defusing tensions in the East Sea and possible impacts on the region when the Trans-Pacific Partnership is signed.

Opposing China

Viet Nam fisheries surveillance vessels yesterday continued activities to oppose China and request it to withdraw the oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 from Viet Nam's waters.

Meanwhile, Chinese ships sped up as they approached Vietnamese vessels from a distance of 10 to 30 metres. They squared off around the rig and kept Vietnamese vessels about eight to 10 nautical miles away from the area where China's oil rig is illegally deployed, according to the Viet Nam's Fisheries Surveillance Department.

Viet Nam's fishing boats kept up their regular fishing activities about 30-40 nautical miles from the rig.

However, their operations were hindered by Chinese ships, a Vietnam News Agency reporter said, adding that at night, two Chinese coastguard ships and a cargo liner flashed their lights and blasted their sirens at Vietnamese fishing boats.

In the daytime, the Chinese ships moved at high speed to disrupt the fishing boats' activities.

China has kept more than 120 ships near the rig, including 36-40 coastguard vessels, more than 30 to 32 cargo liners and tugboats, six military ships, 45 to 50 fishing vessels.

A military aircraft continues to fly over and around the rig at a height of 500 to 700 metres. — VNS