Behave responsibly, Vietnam exhorts as South China Sea tensions rise

By Khanh Lynh   March 14, 2019 | 08:12 am PT
Behave responsibly, Vietnam exhorts as South China Sea tensions rise
The Thitu Island of the Paracel Islands, as seen on Google Maps.
With tensions rising over Chinese vessels approaching an island occupied by the Philippines, Vietnam has called for calm.

All parties should act responsibly and avoid complicating the situation in the East Sea, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Thursday, using the Vietnamese name for the waters.

They need to comply with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) and not complicate the situation in the East Sea, she said at a press meeting.

Vietnam wants that countries do not exacerbate tensions and take over unoccupied structures in the disputed waters.

"Behave responsibly and contribute practically and positively to peace and stability in the region," she exhorted all nations involved.

She said responsible behavior was a must as countries looked for peaceful solutions to disputes in the area.

On March 5, Philippine officials said Chinese fishing boats forced Filipino fishermen to leave Thitu Island in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spartly) Islands, now claimed and occupied by the Philippines.

The U.S.-based think tank Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the International Strategic Research Center (CSIS) said on February 7 that 95 Chinese vessels anchored close to the island on December 20. The number dropped to 42 on January 26.

The Philippine government's plan to build a beaching ramp on Thitu to facilitate the transport of materials to lengthen the island's runway to accommodate larger planes.

"The drop in the number of government vessels, mirroring the reduction of the militia presence, suggests Chinese forces have settled into a pattern of monitoring and intimidation after their initial large deployment failed to convince Manila to halt construction," AMTI said.

The U.S. sent B-52 bomber flights over the South China Sea on March 4, saying it was part of routine missions. The U.S. Pacific Airforce sent additional two aircraft on Thursday, saying U.S. aircraft regularly operate in the South China Sea in support of allies, partners and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

At the Thursday press briefing, Hang reiterated that Vietnam has full legal grounds and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Paracel (Hoang Sa) and Spratly (Truong Sa) archipelagoes.

Referring to the incident when a Chinese vessel rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat off the central coast last week, the spokeswoman said the five rescued fishermen are on their way back to the mainland.

Vietnamese authorities are continuing to verify the incident and will ensure the legal rights and interests of these fishermen, she said.

According to the Vietnam National Committee for Emergency Response, Disaster Prevention and Rescue in Vietnam, a Quang Ngai fishing vessel was sunk by Chinese ship (BKS 44101) in the vicinity of Da Loi (Discovery) Island in the Hoang Sa Archipelago on March 6.

China seized the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam by force in 1974, and Spratly Islands from Vietnam in 1988.

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