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China boat race near Paracels a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty

By Khanh Lynh   May 23, 2019 | 06:00 am PT
China boat race near Paracels a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty
Chinese fishing boats are seen at Scarborough Shoal in this satellite image by CSIS taken in December 2018.
Vietnam has denounced a recent sailboat race held by China off the Hoang Sa Archipelago as a serious violation of its sovereignty.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said that China's organization of the sailboat race around the Drummond Island in the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago between April 22 and 26 "seriously violated Vietnam's sovereignty over the islands."

The activity went against Vietnam and China's agreement on basic principles for solving matters at sea, and against the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). It complicated the situation and undermined efforts to maintain peace, stability and cooperation in the waters, Hang said.

"Vietnam demands that China not repeat such activities," she told the press on Thursday.

Vietnam calls the South China Sea the East Sea, and has consistently asserted its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands, as well as its legal rights over their waters in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Hang also called for respect of sovereignty and marine environment law following reports of China sending boats to exploit endangered clams in the South China Sea.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday said that satellite imagery since late 2018 show Chinese clam fishing boats have returned to the waterway in force over the last six months to harvest endangered giant clams.

The Chinese fleets were operating frequently at Scarborough Shoal, disputed territory between China and the Philippines, and throughout the Paracel Islands, destroying vast swaths of coral reef, media reports said.

The clam shells can be sold for thousands of dollars each in Hainan Province, in southern China, due to high demand for jewelry, they said.

Hang said exploitation of maritime resources in the East Sea needs to respect the sovereignty of coastal countries, comply with international laws, including the 1982 UNCLOS and regulations on ecological environment protection.

"All countries in the area need to fulfill their obligations in accordance with international treaties on the environment," she said.

China had seized the Paracel Islands from what was then South Vietnam by force in 1974, and has since been illegally occupying them.

In 2012 it established the so-called Sansha City with the archipelago's Woody Island as its seat.

The "city" also covers a number of reefs in the Spratly Islands that China seized by force in 1988 and the Scarborough Shoal.

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