Vietnam welcomes rejection of China's East Sea claims

By Phuong Vu   July 15, 2020 | 05:44 am PT
Vietnam welcomes rejection of China's East Sea claims
The USS Barry (third from left) joins other ships in officer of the watch manoeuvres in the South China Sea, on April 18, 2020. Photo by Reuters.
Vietnam has appreciated countries backing compliance with international law after the U.S. explicitly rejected China's illegal East Sea claims.

"Vietnam welcomes the position of countries on the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea) that are in accordance with international law. As Vietnam has stated in the declaration of the ASEAN 36 Summit, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the legal framework governing all activities in the sea," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Wednesday.

She was referring to Monday’s statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which said that "the United States rejects any PRC (People’s Republic of China) claim to waters beyond a 12-nautical mile territorial sea derived from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands."

Hang said that peace, stability, cooperation and development in the South China Sea is the common desire and goal of countries in the sea, the region and the international community.

Respect for legal order at the sea, goodwill and responsible, full implementation of the UNCLOS is important to achieve this goal, she added.

Vietnam hopes that other countries will make efforts to contribute to the maintenance of peace, stability and cooperation in the South China Sea and to resolve disputes through dialogues and other peaceful measures in accordance with international law for mutual benefit, she said.

Vietnam has always actively and responsibly contributed to this process, she added.

Pompeo also said that the "the United States rejects any PRC maritime claim in the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank (off Vietnam), Luconia Shoals (off Malaysia), waters in Brunei’s EEZ and Natuna Besar (off Indonesia)."

Any PRC action to harass other states' fishing or hydrocarbon development in these waters, or to carry out such activities unilaterally, is unlawful, he said.

Pompeo's statement explicitly takes sides in favor of Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines and Vietnam, after years of the U.S. saying it took no position on individual claims.

He said: "America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law."

The Philippines’s Department of National Defense on Tuesday said it "strongly agrees" with the position of the international community that there should be a rules-based order in the South China Sea.

It urged China to comply with the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) and abide by the United Nations Convention on the UNCLOS to which it is a signatory.

China has taken a series of illegal, provocative actions in the waters since the start of this year as countries around the world were focused on battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

It formed the so-called ‘Xisha’ and ‘Nansha’ districts in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands, sank Vietnamese fishing vessels off the Paracels, unilaterally issued a fishing ban and sent a ship to harass a Malaysian oil and gas exploration vessel.

It also announced recently a vegetable farming project on Woody (Phu Lam) Island in the Paracels to strengthen its illegal sovereignty claim, and sent two diplomatic notes to the U.N. to make the infamous Four Sha claim, which covers a broader swath of territory than the notorious and illegal nine-dash line.

Vietnam has repeatedly and strongly protested China’s provocative, illegal actions and urged it to desist.

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