Vietnam welcomes 'South China Sea' ruling

By Reuters, VnExpress   July 12, 2016 | 07:10 pm GMT+7
Vietnam welcomes 'South China Sea' ruling
Vietnam Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Le Hai Binh. Photo by VnExpress/Quy Doan

"Vietnam welcomes the arbitration court issuing its final ruling on July 12," foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said.

Vietnam welcomed a ruling by the International Court of Arbitration court concerning the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea, on Tuesday, saying it strongly supports the peaceful resolution of disputes while reasserting its own sovereignty claims, according to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Vietnam strongly supports the resolution of disputes in the East Sea by peaceful means, including diplomatic and legal processes and refraining from the use or threat to use force in accordance with international law,” Binh said.

The ministry also reasserted Vietnam's sovereignty claims over the Paracel and Spratly islands, and its jurisdiction over its Exclusive Economic Zone.

“[The ruling] benefits the Philippines," attorney Nguyen Toan Thang from the Hanoi Law University told VnExpress. "The tribunal has clarified the legality of the 'nine-dash line' and other structures in the East Sea. Other related countries will have to reconsider their declarations and claims on their sovereign rights over these features."

Earlier, the Hague Tribunal, in a 497-page ruling, stated that China's claims to historic rights under the nine-dash line are contrary to a U.N. convention China has ratified. The Hague also found that Chinese actions have aggravated the Philippines dispute during attempts to resolve the issue.

"None of the Spratly Islands grant China an exclusive economic zone," said Hague tribunal.

The panel also found that Chinese law enforcement patrols had risked colliding with Philippine fishing vessels and caused irreparable damage to coral reefs with construction work.

China foreign minister says the ruling will worsen the tensions. President Xi Jinping said China is dedicated to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea but will not accept any positions or actions based on the outcome of the arbitration case over the dispute.

"Legally, the verdict has clarified many issues. Now the court has determined there are no structures that warrant an exclusive economic zone, it will reduce a lot of the overlapping area," said Thang.

China claims most of the South China Sea, even waters approaching neighboring countries, based on a vaguely defined "nine-dash-line" found on a 1940s Chinese map. The Philippines, and other countries including Vietnam, dispute this claim.

Commentators say the 3 million square kilometres (1.2 million square miles) of water are a potential flashpoint for regional conflict.

The tensions have alarmed the United States which has key defense treaties with many regional allies, and in a show of strength last week sent warships to patrol close to some of the reefs and islands claimed by China.

Meanwhile, the Chinese navy conducted combat drills near its southern island province of Hainan and the Paracel islands in the South China Sea one week ahead of the Hague tribunal's ruling.

Scientists believe that the disputed waters could contain unexploited oil, gas and minerals, which would be a boon to any country that can establish their claims to the region's waters, especially in resource-hungry Asia. It's also home to abundant fisheries that feed growing populations.

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