US backs international law compliance in South China Sea

By Viet Anh   November 23, 2020 | 04:18 am PT
US backs international law compliance in South China Sea
U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Navy team up in the South China Sea. Photo by Reuters.
The U.S. has reiterated its support for Vietnam and the Philippines in promoting compliance with international law in the South China Sea.

"I think one issue that was common to both countries is a commitment to support our allies in ASEAN, our friends, and partners in the region, that the U.S. will stand behind them as they promote international law, the rule of law when it comes to the South China Sea," U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in a Monday teleconference from Manila.

"Our message is we're going to be here, we've got your back, and we're not leaving," said O'Brien.

The South China Sea is known as the East Sea in Vietnam.

O'Brien was speaking after meeting with high-ranking officials in Vietnam and the Philippines during his recent visits to both countries.

He stressed the U.S.'s commitment to a free and open Indo Pacific region and to upholding the sovereignty of countries in the region, especially those with legitimate rights and interests in the South China Sea. He said the fishing rights, minerals rights and oil and gas rights in the area "belong to the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren of those countries."

The U.S. is a major Pacific power and has long-term commitments in the area, O'Brien said. "We've had those commitments whether we've been led by a Democrat or a Republican president."

In their Saturday meeting, O'Brien and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh agreed that the relationship between Vietnam and the U.S. has scaled new highs. Minh praised the security and defense cooperation between the two sides, including maintaining bilateral dialogue mechanisms and strengthening cooperation in search and rescue operations and in providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

O’Brien also met with Vietnam’s Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich and Minister of Public Security To Lam. He stressed that the U.S. highly values the comprehensive partnership between both countries and affirmed continued support for a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam that will play an increasingly important role in the region.

The U.S. security advisor participated in the virtual ASEAN - U.S. Summit on November 14 and praised Vietnam's role as the chair of ASEAN this year, particularly in coordinating regional efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and related challenges.

O’Brien’s visit took place just a fortnight after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Hanoi. Pompeo also emphasized the U.S.’s continued support for a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam.

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