Australian foreign minister condemns China’s disruptive actions

By Minh Nga   April 23, 2020 | 07:59 pm PT
Australian foreign minister condemns China’s disruptive actions
Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks during a news conference at the Australian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, January 10, 2019. Photo by Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Thursday she was concerned about China's disruptive activities in the East Sea, including the sinking of a Vietnamese boat.

Australia was concerned over "reported efforts to disrupt other countries' resource development activities, the declaration of new 'administrative districts' over disputed features, and the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat, reportedly in a collision with a Chinese coast guard vessel," Payne was quoted as saying by The Sydney Morning Herald. They were her first comments on the issue in the East Sea, known internationally as the South China Sea.

She said that Australia had a "strong interest in the stability of this crucial waterway and the norms and laws that govern it.

"It is vital at this time that all parties refrain from destabilizing activities and work to ease tensions so the international community can devote full attention to responding cooperatively to the Covid-19 pandemic," she said.

China’s transgressions

On April 2, a Chinese coast guard vessel rammed and sank a fishing vessel owned by Tran Hong Tho from the central province of Quang Ngai. The boat, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing off Woody (Phu Lam) Island in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands in the East Sea.

Vietnam condemned the incident and demanded that China take action against the Chinese Coast Guard vessel involved and compensate the fishermen for their loss.

A diplomatic note was given to representatives of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi.

On April 18, China announced that it has established the "Xisha District" to manage the Paracels and "Nansha District" to manage the Spratlys.

Vietnam denounced the establishment the following day, again asserting its historic and legally provable sovereignty over both archipelagos.

In an April 17 diplomatic note submitted to the United Nations, China falsely claimed that the Vietnamese government and the world community have acknowledged Beijing's sovereignty over what it calls the Xisha Islands, which are Vietnam Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands; and the Nansha Islands, which are Vietnam's Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands.

Misinterpreting a 1958 diplomatic note by the late Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, China claimed that it showed the Vietnamese government acknowledged and supported the Chinese government's September 4, 1958 statement on territorial waters. According to that statement, China wanted territorial waters that spanned 12 nautical miles, applying to all of China's territories, including the so-called Xisha and Nansha islands, the Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands) and the Zhongsa Islands (Macclesfield Bank).

On Thursday, Vietnam rejected China's misinterpretation and reaffirmed legal sovereignty over Vietnamese East Sea territories.

Australian frigate HMAS Parramatta has joined three U.S. warships for an exercise in the South China Sea this week.

They arrived close to where the Chinese government survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 has been operating, Reuters reported.

The Chinese vessel was spotted inside sea areas about 352 km away from Bruneian and Malaysian coasts by ship tracking website Marine Traffic on April 16.

On April 14, it had reportedly appeared at 158 km (98 miles) off Vietnam’s coast, within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

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