Vietnam protests over Taiwan's live-fire drill in Spratlys

By Khanh Lynh, Hong Hanh   March 22, 2018 | 03:54 pm PT
Vietnam's foreign ministry denounced Taiwan's ongoing live-fire drill around an island in the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands as a serious violation of Vietnam's sovereignty.

Taiwan's repeated drills around Ba Binh Island (internationally known as Itu Aba) threaten peace, stability, maritime safety and security, create tension and complicate the situation in the East Sea, Vietnam's foreign ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said Thursday, using the Vietnamese reference for the South China Sea.

Ba Binh (Itu Aba) Island as seen on Google Maps.

Ba Binh (Itu Aba) Island as seen on Google Maps.

Taiwan's latest live-fire drill in the waters around the island took place from March 21 to 23, according to Taiwan's web portal.

"Once again, Vietnam resolutely opposes [the drill] and demands Taiwan not to repeat any such exercises," Hang said in a statement on Thursday.

Ba Binh, the largest naturally occuring island in the Truong Sa Islands, is claimed by Vietnam but is currently occupied by Taiwan.

In Thursday's statement, Vietnam's foreign ministry also slammed a fishing ban in the East Sea unilaterally issued by China.

The fishing ban, which was issued by China's agriculture ministry last month, would take place from May 1 to August 16 and would be applicable to areas north of the 12th parallel north, including the Gulf of Tonkin, Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

"This regulation violates Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoang Sa Islands, violates Vietnam's legal rights and interests over its waters and violates international laws, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS]," Hang said in the statement.

Vietnam therefore resolutely opposes and rejects this regulation, the spokesperson said.

According to Hang, the fishing ban goes against the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, violates the Vietnam-China Agreement on the Basic Principles Guiding the Resolution of Maritime Issues and is at odds with the agreements reached by the two countries' leaders on controlling maritime disputes.

China's unilaterally issued regulation is also not beneficial to the maintenance of peace, stability, cooperation in the East Sea and the positive development of Vietnam-China relations, as well as the efforts to negotiate a Code of Conduct in the East Sea, the spokesperson said.

Vietnam has full legal grounding and historical evidence for its indisputable sovereignty over the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa islands, as well as waters belonging to Vietnam as determined by UNCLOS, Hang added.

China has been issuing the so-called fishing ban in some waters, including the East Sea, every year since 1999, despite opposition from Vietnam and other countries in the region.

In 1974, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the American troops from the Vietnam War, China invaded Hoang Sa Islands. A brief but bloody naval battle with the forces of the then U.S.-backed Republic of Vietnam ensued.

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