EU concerned about escalating tension in Vietnamese waters

By Viet Anh   August 5, 2019 | 01:07 am PT
EU concerned about escalating tension in Vietnamese waters
Federica Mogherini (L), Vice President of the European Commission, speaks at a press conference with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi, August 5, 2019. Photo courtesy of The Gioi Vietnam.
The European Union backs peaceful resolutions based on international law to South China Sea problems, a senior official says.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, expressed the EU's concern about the increasing tension in the South China Sea at a press conference in Hanoi Monday.

"This tension and the militarization process in the region do not contribute to peace and development," she said at the conference with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh.

The EU always supports free navigation and aviation and considers that the benefits of all nations, she said.

The bloc also advocates transparency in negotiations between China and member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to formulate the legally binding Code of Conduct on the South China Sea (COC), she said.

China last year had suggested that ASEAN countries should complete the COC in the next three years and stressed it wanted no ASEAN members to join hands with those outside the bloc to exploit natural resources or conduct military drills.

"The EU always supports measures to ease tensions and the need to respect international laws, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," Mogherini said.

Mogherinin is on a three day official visit to Vietnam between August 3-5.

She made the statement in the context of China illegally operating its oil survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and escort vessels near Vietnam's Vanguard Bank in the south of the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea, since early July.

Foreign Minister Minh said Vietnam welcomes the EU’s support for navigation freedom, security and safety in the East Sea.

He said China’s militarization process and unilateral activities have increased tensions, eroded trust and weakened peace, security and stability in the region.

"I have suggested that the EU continues to contribute to maintaining peace, stability, supremacy and respect for the UNCLOS, as well as respect for the rights and legitimate interests of countries in the East Sea," he said.

Experts have said China is trying to turn Vietnamese territory into a disputed area to advance its superpower plans, but that the actions could erode bilateral and regional trust and affect domestic opinion.

Minh told Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the ASEAN Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok last Thursday that Vietnam and China need to maintain peace, stability and control conflicts well, without adding tensions and resolving disputes with peaceful measures.

Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said earlier that Vietnam has contacted China on multiple occasions via different channels, delivered diplomatic notes to oppose China's violations and demanded that China withdraw its infringing ships from Vietnamese waters.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had recently added his voice to international criticism, accusing China of coercing its Southeast Asian neighbors in disputes over the South China Sea. He urged regional allies to speak out against such actions.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including waters close to Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

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