UN law of the sea baseline for maritime rights, Vietnam and UK agree

By Viet Anh   October 1, 2020 | 12:49 am PT
UN law of the sea baseline for maritime rights, Vietnam and UK agree
Pham Binh Minh (R), Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Dominic Raab, First Secretary of State of the U.K., hold a joint statement following their talk in Hanoi, September 30, 2020. Photo courtesy of Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Vietnam and the U.K. will look to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as baseline for maritime activities.

The "Joint Statement on the Vietnam-U.K. Strategic Partnership: Development Orientation in the Next 10 Years" signed Wednesday in Hanoi reads: "We emphasize the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the basis for determining the scope of the seas, the sovereignty, jurisdiction and legitimate interests of the seas; and that UNCLOS is the comprehensive legal framework that all operations in seas and oceans must adhere to."

The statement came after a talk between Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh and First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the U.K., Dominic Raab in Hanoi.

Rabb was on an official visit to Vietnam on Tuesday and Wednesday as the two nations celebrate the 10th anniversary of establishing their strategic partnership.

According to the statement, Vietnam and the U.K. reaffirm the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, security, safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight, enforcing UNCLOS in good faith, settling disputes in peace without threatening to use force, respecting diplomatic and legal processes based on international law, especially UNCLOS.

The two sides continued to express deep concern over developments in the South China Sea, including activities to obstruct, renovate and militarize structures that are in dispute, and underline the importance of demilitarization and refraining from force when conducting activities at sea, as well as avoiding actions that could complicate the situation or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability. Vietnam calls the waters the East Sea.

They also reaffirmed the importance of fully and effectively implementing the Declaration of the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), soon completing an effective and feasible Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) that adheres to international laws, especially UNCLOS, and not to threaten the rights of states or the interests of third parties under international law.

On September 16, the U.K. along with France and Germany submitted a note verbale to the U.N. to criticize China’s South China Sea actions.

The three stated China’s exercise of its so-called "historic rights" in the waterway does not comply with international law. As state parties to the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), they reaffirmed that the integrity of UNCLOS needs to be maintained, and underlined the importance of unhampered exercise of the freedom of the high seas, in particular the freedom of navigation and overflight.

Regarding bilateral cooperation, Vietnam and the U.K. agree to make efforts to complete a free trade agreement soon, as Brexit came before the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) took effect.

Britain left the European Union last January and is locked in negotiations with the bloc, its biggest trading partner, on a new trade deal from 2021.

Vietnam and the U.K. achieved a two-way trade turnover of $6.6 billion last year compared to $6.7 billion in 2018. Between 2010 and 2018, Vietnam-U.K. bilateral trade rose on average 17.8 percent each year.

Raab tweeted Wednesday the U.K. had "secured Vietnam’s public support to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)."

"This is a significant step in taking the U.K.-Vietnam economic relationship to the next level, and demonstrates the U.K.’s commitment and value to the region," the tweet stated.

The two also agreed to give priority to the fight against illegal immigrantion and human trafficking, given the many cases of Vietnamese trafficked into the U.K. in recent times.

"In the next 10 years, the Vietnam-U.K. strategic partnership would act as a framework to strengthen bilateral relations and also to solve problems faced by both sides in the international community," the joint statement read.

Raab attended an online Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Wednesday chaired by deputy PM and Minister Pham Binh Minh in his capacity as Chair of ASEAN 2020.

Regarding their cooperation in ASEAN, Vietnam and the U.K. pledged to regularly exchange viewpoints on important matters, including recognizing the role of the bloc, ensuring peace, stability, safety, as well as freedom of aviation and navigation in both the Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific regions.

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