All nations, big or small, must uphold the rule of law in the East Sea

In a recent interview with VNA, Nguyen Manh Dong, head of the maritime affairs department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' National Border Committee, reiterated Vietnam’s consistent policy

that all international disputes, including those in the East Sea (internationally known as the East Sea), must be resolved by peaceful means as regulated in the UN Charter and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982).

All nations, big or small, must uphold the rule of law in the East Sea
A 2nd Regional Coast Guard patrol vessel is seen accompanying a fishing boat in waters off Ly Son island in the central province of Quang Ngai. Such activities are aimed at boosting people-military ties, raising awareness on the fishermen's part on the need to comply with international law while the coast guard will provide protection and support for the fishermen if needed. — VNA/VNS Photo Tran Tinh

What do you have to say about the need to maintain a peaceful and stable environment in the East Sea?

First of all, we need to reaffirm that peace, security, stability and cooperative development is the wish of all nations in the world and an inevitable trend of humanity.

All nations, no matter their economic development level or scope of influence, must together make efforts – with goodwill and via practical and constructive contributions – to maintain an environment conducive for this trend, in the interests of the international community as a whole, when international integration deepens and mutual dependency grows.

Secondly, we have seen that peace, stability and cooperation served as important bases for the dynamic, vibrant growth of the Asia-Pacific region in general, including the East Sea region over the last decades.

Thirdly, the East Sea is a living space and has room for growth of coastal countries – including Vietnam, and a space for cooperation between countries in and outside the region. The East Sea also holds vital global maritime routes in terms of both volume of goods and number of vessels.

In consideration of the sea’s strategic position, the respect towards each other’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdictional rights, and maritime and airspace freedom as delineated in the UNCLOS 1982, serves as the basis for efforts to uphold peace and stability in the East Sea.

That’s why, in recent years, coastal countries and other countries both in and outside the region have expressed utmost concern over the unilateral acts that encroach upon littoral countries’ legal maritime rights and interests – including stymying legal exploration, surveying, and exploitation activities of the coastal countries, along with stepping up illegal construction and militarisation of geographical features in the East Sea.

These activities erode the trust, exacerbate tensions and have negative implications for regional and global peace, stability, order, development and growth.

The international community and countries in the region have repeatedly expressed their concerns and protested these unilateral, unlawful acts, and called for respect towards rule-of-law and compliance with international law, including UNCLOS.

How has the role of UNCLOS in settling sea disputes been stressed?

This year, UNCLOS signatories celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention’s entry into force.

On the occasion, UN Secretary General [António Guterres] said that UNCLOS is effectively the “Constitution for our oceans” and the “comprehensive framework for the peaceful, cooperative and sustainable use of seas, oceans and their resources.”

I want to underline a few points:

The birth of the Convention is an important step towards forming an international legal order that governs all activities concerning the seas and oceans, meaning that UNCLOS serves both as the most comprehensive legal basis for countries to identify and execute their rights and duties concerning the seas, and also the basis for countries to settle disputes arising from interpretation and application of the Convention in real life.

Most UN members, 168 out of 192 countries, have participated in the Convention and therefore, they have the obligation to observe the Convention, with goodwill and in a responsible manner.

Disputes are inevitable in interpretation and application of the Convention, but all countries have the obligation to settle these disputes in a peaceful manner via measures stipulated in Article 33 of the UN Charter and Article 279 of UNCLOS. I want to point out that there’s a distinction between real disputes and unilateral infringements and in this regard, UNCLOS can be used to determine which is a dispute and which is an infringement.

One of the most progressive properties of the dispute settlement measures stipulated in UNCLOS is the “finality and binding force of decisions,” which means that, in most cases, disputes concerning interpretation and application of UNCLOS could be decided by a third party and the decisions rendered must be complied with by all parties to the dispute.

In recent years, a few countries in the region and outside have made use of this procedure to successfully settle their own disputes concerning the interpretation and application of UNCLOS terms.

International and regional documents have also underpinned the role of UNCLOS in the resolution of international maritime disputes.

How has Vietnam taken advantage of the accepted peaceful measures to protect the country’s territorial and sovereign integrity, and our legal rights and interests?

Our consistent policy has always been that all international disputes, including ones in the South China Sea, must be resolved peacefully in line with the UN Charter and UNCLOS.

 

This has been asserted strongly in Viet Nam National Assembly’s resolution ratifying the UNCLOS in 1994, the Law of the Sea of Viet Nam, in addition to several other legal documents.

On that basis, so far, we have concluded the demarcation of and fisheries co-operation in the Gulf of Tonkin with China in 2000, maritime demarcation with Thailand in 1997 and continental shelf demarcation with Indonesia in 2003, signed an agreement on joint oil and gas exploitation with Malaysia in 1992 and a treaty on historical waters with Cambodia in 1988.

We are stepping up negotiations to handle demarcation of the sea off the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin with China and the demarcation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with Indonesia.

Vietnam always shows respect for its neighbouring countries’ territorial waters identified properly by UNCLOS and have been paying attention to educating and raising awareness of our fishermen on the need to comply with international law – especially UNCLOS – and refrain from violations of foreign waters.

At the same time, we have patiently and resolutely fought against infringing acts of the Vietnamese EEZ and continental shelf – as specified in accordance with UNCLOS’ terms – by peaceful measures, including sending diplomatic notes voicing our protests, circulating the notes at the UN, and repeatedly reaffirming that Vietnam reserves the right to make use of all peaceful measures in line with international law to protect the country’s legitimate rights and interests under UNCLOS.

What particular efforts has Vietnam taken to enhance the implementation of UNCLOS and international maritime cooperation?

Vietnam was one of the 107 states to have signed UNCLOS in Montego Bay, Jamaica right after the convention opened for signing in 1982, and it was one of the earliest countries to ratify the convention.

Over the years, Vietnam has always respected and fulfilled all its obligations under UNCLOS, demonstrated through the country’s integration of the convention’s terms into domestic laws, the continual improvements made to the country’s legal system on the sea and the use of the convention’s regulations as a basis for resolving demarcation issues and promoting maritime cooperation with neighbouring countries that share maritime borders.

On bilateral cooperation, Vietnam has conducted joint marine science research with the Philippines in 1996, 2000, 2005 and 2007. Based on these successes, the two countries have institutionalised bilateral marine cooperation and expanded the cooperation from marine science research to new fields like marine environmental protection, search and rescue, and oil spill response.

In terms of the partnership in less sensitive areas at sea with China, the two countries have successfully implemented a study comparing the Holocene-epoch deposits in the Red River and Yangtze River deltas, and worked together to release breeding fish and protect aquatic resources in the Gulf of Tonkin.

The two are enhancing collaboration in search and rescue, maritime affairs, the opening of a hotline to deal with fisheries-related incidents at sea, and implementation of some new projects on environmental protection in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Vietnam has also set up joint patrol mechanisms at sea with Thailand in 1998, Cambodia in 2002 and China in 2005 to maintain order in relevant sea areas, enhancing ties between relevant forces of Vietnam and the countries, and fostering good-neighbourliness.

Within the framework of ASEAN, Vietnam has also joined in cooperation on East Sea matters, including the ASEAN Senior Transport Officials’ Meeting, the ASEAN Transport Search and Rescue Forum, the ASEAN Maritime Forum, and the Sub-Committee on Marine Science and Technology.

To implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea between ASEAN and China and negotiate a Code of Conduct in the waters, Vietnam has proposed many initiatives and made practical contributions for the sake of the parties concerned and for ASEAN-China maritime cooperation.

Additionally, Vietnam has actively engaged in activities within the framework of international mechanisms established under the UNCLOS – including participating in the meetings of the UNCLOS member states held annually at the UN General Assembly and the meetings of the International Seabed Authority.

We have also supported the enhancement of activities of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and for a stronger role of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, taken part in efforts to build international legal regulations governing the conservation and biodiversity at international seas.

These vividly attest to the Vietnamese Government’s goodwill, active participation and determined commitment to respecting and implementing the UNCLOS.

The rights of Vietnam, a member of UNCLOS

The rights of Vietnam, a member of UNCLOS

The area of waters and continental shelf in which Vietnam can enjoy the rights for the sea and resources in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is approximately 1 million square kilometers.

Vietnam: responsible member of UNCLOS

Vietnam: responsible member of UNCLOS

After four years of preparations and nine years of negotiations, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS 1982) was signed by 107 countries, including Vietnam in 1982 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

UNCLOS 1982 - overarching framework for establishing legal order for seas and oceans, promoting development cooperation at sea

UNCLOS 1982 - overarching framework for establishing legal order for seas and oceans, promoting development cooperation at sea

The year 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS 1982) and also the 25th year since Vietnam ratified the convention.

VNS

 
 

Other News

.
US condemns China’s intimidation in East Sea
US condemns China’s intimidation in East Sea
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  05/11/2019 

US national security advisor and presidential envoy Robert O’Brien on November 4 denounced Chinese intimidation to stop ASEAN nations from exploiting the offshore resources in the East Sea.

East Sea issue high on agenda of 14th East Asia Summit
East Sea issue high on agenda of 14th East Asia Summit
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  05/11/2019 

The East Sea issue was among the focuses of the 14th East Asia Summit (EAS) on November 4 afternoon, part of the ongoing 35th ASEAN Summit and related summits in Thailand.

PM calls for upholding international law in East Sea at ASEAN-China Summit
PM calls for upholding international law in East Sea at ASEAN-China Summit
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  04/11/2019 

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc called for upholding international law and avoiding recurrence of violations of international law in the East Sea while addressing the 22nd ASEAN-China Summit in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday.

ASEAN, India back maintaining peace in East Sea
ASEAN, India back maintaining peace in East Sea
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  04/11/2019 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) appreciated India’s contributions to peace and stability in Southeast Asia at a summit in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 3.

ASEAN summit: Malaysia concerns about situation in East Sea
ASEAN summit: Malaysia concerns about situation in East Sea
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  03/11/2019 

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said his country was concerned about the presence of Chinese coast guard vessels in its waters, while attending the 20th ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) Council Meeting.

China’s activities in East Sea violate int’l laws: Russian experts
China’s activities in East Sea violate int’l laws: Russian experts
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  02/11/2019 

China’s recent activities in the East Sea are contrary to international laws, including the UNCLOS 1982, experts highlighted at a conference held at the Russian Academy of Justice (RGUP) on November 1.

US officials strongly condemn China’s illegal activities in East Sea
US officials strongly condemn China’s illegal activities in East Sea
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  31/10/2019 

Beijing intends to bully and threaten countries in the Indo-Pacific region by illegally building and militarising artificial features on the East Sea, Admiral John C. Aquilino, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, told the press.

Developments in East Sea, impact of trade war on VN National Assembly agenda
Developments in East Sea, impact of trade war on VN National Assembly agenda
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  28/10/2019 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh today delivered a report on developments in the East Sea and the impact of the U.S.-China trade war at the National Assembly’s ongoing eighth sitting.

East Sea issue must be settled based on int’l regulations: experts
East Sea issue must be settled based on int’l regulations: experts
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  26/10/2019 

Experts reiterated the significance of respecting international regulations in settling disputes in the East Sea at a recent conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Spokesperson answers query on Chinese ships’ exit from Vietnamese waters
Spokesperson answers query on Chinese ships’ exit from Vietnamese waters
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  26/10/2019 

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang on October 25 once again stressed Vietnam’s request for relevant parties not to repeat violations of the country’s waters.

Vanguard bank has never been a sovereignty-disputed area
Vanguard bank has never been a sovereignty-disputed area
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  24/10/2019 

Bai Tu Chinh (Vanguard bank) is on the Vietnamese continental shelf. Vietnam has been using and exploiting it in a stable manner. This has never been a sovereignty-disputed area.

Paracel and Spratly Islands have never appeared in Chinese administrative maps
Paracel and Spratly Islands have never appeared in Chinese administrative maps
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  19/10/2019 

In China’s ancient maps, this country’s southernmost point is Hainan Island.

US expert condemns China’s violations in Vietnam’s EEZ
US expert condemns China’s violations in Vietnam’s EEZ
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  18/10/2019 

China’s deployment of survey vessel group Haiyang Dizhi-8 to Tu Chinh reef (Vanguard Bank) in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has violated international law, Associate Prof. Ryan Martinson of the US Naval War College said.

Chinese illegal activities hinder COC negotiation process: Vietnamese diplomat
Chinese illegal activities hinder COC negotiation process: Vietnamese diplomat
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  17/10/2019 

This is not the first time Vietnam expressed concerns about China’s violations in the East Sea.

Chinese coastguard ships ‘deliberately visible' in the East Sea
Chinese coastguard ships ‘deliberately visible' in the East Sea
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  17/10/2019 

Some Chinese coastguard vessels deployed in the East Sea have deliberately made themselves visible to rival claimants of the contested waters by turning on tracking signals – a move analysts described as an attempt to assert sovereignty.

China is resorting to new forms of bullying in the East Sea
China is resorting to new forms of bullying in the East Sea
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  16/10/2019 

Less is heard these days about China’s massive terraforming operations in the East Sea, which not long ago exercised neighbours as well as the United States.

Those who never grew old, who lie in Truong Sa
Those who never grew old, who lie in Truong Sa
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  14/10/2019 

To set up landmarks and maintain sovereignty over 33 military posts in the Truong Sa islands (Spratly), blood, sweat and tears of many generations have been sacrificed.

Vietnam owns convincing evidence of sovereignty in East Sea: Russian expert
Vietnam owns convincing evidence of sovereignty in East Sea: Russian expert
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  13/10/2019 

Vietnam owns convincing evidence of its sovereignty in the East Sea, Russian expert Grigory Trofimchuk, Chairman of the Expert Council of the Eurasian Foundation for Support of Scientific Research has said.

VN Communist Party members asked to ponder East Sea situation
VN Communist Party members asked to ponder East Sea situation
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  11/10/2019 

The analysis must be predictable about the global and regional situation and impact on the country.

Scheme to monopolize East Sea ignores international law
Scheme to monopolize East Sea ignores international law
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  11/10/2019 

China’s survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi-8 and its escorts have conducted regular oil exploration activities and expanded operations in the Tu Chinh-Vung May or Vanguard Bank region of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN