Due to complicated historical, geographical, and legal conditions, the East Sea has been the subject of continued disputes between surrounding countries, including Vietnam.
Given the situation, the country is required to identify appropriate policies to explore the sea’s potential and also settle the ongoing challenges.
Vietnam boasts a coastline stretching 3,260 kilometres in length and adjacent to the East Sea. According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Vietnam has sovereignty and sovereign rights over an area of 700,000 sq m in the waters. The country is home to over 3,000 onshore islands and two offshore archipelagos: Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly).
The East Sea plays a vital role in the development of regional countries and others for several reasons. First, it is rich in biological and non-biological resources. Second, it is home to major transit routes and sea lanes connecting the Indian and Pacific oceans. With its strategic geopolitical position, the East Sea is continually threatened by disputes between major powerhouses and also non-traditional security challenges, including climate change, environmental pollution, and maritime crime.
The complicated nature of the East Sea requires that Vietnam come up with appropriate policies to both explore the sea’s potential and settle current challenges, in order to create a peaceful and stable environment. This is a perquisite for the country’s national construction and development process. In fact, Vietnam has issued and continually revised legal documents relating to seas and oceans. These are fundamental in addressing disputes over the East Sea and bolstering cooperation in different fields regarding the waters.
Vietnam’s honourable approach and policies on settling disputes and boosting cooperation in the East Sea have been welcomed by the international community and posted certain achievements.
Given that the modern world has entered into a new era of intertwined opportunities and challenges, in particular the COVID-19 pandemic and unpredictability in regional politics and security, Vietnam continually strives to join hands with regional countries to maintain peace in the East Sea. This is conducted on the basis of international law, specifically the 1982 UNCLOS, and mainly focuses on three closely-related aspects.
First, the country aims to build an enabling environment for cooperation in settling disputes and common challenges. Realising this goal requires that all regional and other countries consolidate mutual trust, strictly adhere to international law, act with full responsibility, and strive for the common interest.
Second, Vietnam looks to peacefully settle disagreements and disputes in the East Sea. Accordingly, concerned parties should enhance dialogues in a straightforward and constructive manner, in line with international law, especially UNCLOS. The dialogue mechanism allows the parties to narrow gaps and identify creative solutions for the settlement of disputes that best preserve the interests of concerned parties.
Lastly, the country targets cooperation in all spheres, both economics and environment, for sustainable development in the East Sea. Vietnam is doing its utmost to promote international trade and ensure uninterrupted supply chains. Meanwhile, given the increasingly serious challenges due to climate change, cooperation in sea studies and resources conservation is needed./.