Vietnam raises South China Sea concerns at ASEAN-US meeting

By Khanh Lynh   May 6, 2017 | 09:11 am GMT+7

The move came as China's construction of military infrastructures on its artificial islands in the disputed waters is nearing completion.

Vietnam has raised concerns over the complicated developments in the South China Sea at a recent meeting between a regional bloc and the United States, the Foreign Ministry said.

At the meeting on Thursday in Washington, Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung emphasized the importance of peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation in the waters Vietnam refers to as the East Sea, the ministry said in a statement.

The meeting is the first between foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. 

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Representatives of ASEAN nations and the U.S. Secretary of State at the meeting. Photo courtesy of Vietnam's Foreign Ministry

Dung affirmed that the developments in the South China Sea is a common concern of countries both within and outside the region, including the U.S. He also highlighted the principles agreed upon the ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Sunnylands, California last year.

Tillerson and ASEAN representatives shared concerns over the complicated developments in the flashpoint waters and stressed the importance of peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the statement said.

Both sides affirmed the exercise of restraint, peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international laws.

Tillerson and ASEAN representatives also agreed to fully comply with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and soon complete the Code of Conduct of Parties, the foreign ministry's statement said.

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Deputy Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung (second from right) and Vietnam's Ambassador to the United States Pham Quang Vinh at the meeting. Photo courtesy of the Foreign Ministry

China has almost finished construction of military infrastructures on its artificial islands in the South China Sea, allowing Beijing to deploy modern military equipments in the area, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, founded by the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in late March.

ASEAN has adopted a cautious approach recently on the issue of the South China Sea, with a weekend summit avoiding references to China's building and arming of artificial islands there, Reuters reported. This stance coincided with moves by China and ASEAN to draft a framework to negotiate a code of conduct.

The U.S. has conducted freedom of navigation operations to challenge South China Sea claims, angering China, but not yet under Trump's administration. Such operations would continue, the newswire cited Patrick Murphy, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia as speaking to reporters. He declined to say when the next operation might be.

In a separate development, Vietnam has rejected China’s unilateral ban on fishing in the East Sea from May 1 to August 16, saying it violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago as well as its rights and legitimate interests in its sea areas, the Vietnam News Agency reported. 

The fishing ban neither suits the development trend in Vietnam-China relations nor benefits peace and stability in the region, Vietnam's foreign ministry spokesperson was quoted as telling reporters on Thursday in Hanoi.