The latest developments in the East Sea came to the fore at a seminar held by the Sri Lanka – Vietnam Solidarity Association in Colombia on June 18, after China illegally placed its drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in early May.

Vietnamese Ambassador Ton Sinh Thanh debunked China’s groundless arguments and confirmed that it has seriously violated international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) that China signed with ASEAN.

Such behaviour is the cause of the East Sea tension and a threat to peace, stability, security and safety of navigation in the region, worrying the global community, the diplomat said.

Chairman of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka Raja Collure expressed his deep concern over the issue and described China’s placement of its oil rig in Vietnam’s waters as a wrongful act.

Both Collure and Secretary General of the association S. Sudasinghe condemned China’s illegal deeds and supported Vietnam in pursuing peaceful means to ease tension in the East Sea.

Earlier on June 16, Vietnamese Ambassador to Chile Ha Thi Ngoc Ha met with Chairman of the Chilean Senate Foreign Relations Commission Juan Pablo Letelier Morel to inform him of the fresh developments in the East Sea.

The Chilean senator said he had held talks with the Vietnamese delegation at the Group of 77 (G77) recent summit in Bolivia, during which he expressed his deep concerned over the politically serious issue, and showed solidarity with Vietnam.

Since early May, China has illegally operated the rig and a large fleet of armed vessels, military ships and aircraft in Vietnam’s waters.

Despite Vietnam’s protests, China has expanded its scale of operation and recently moved the rig to 15 degrees 33 minutes 36 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 34 minutes 11 seconds east longitude, which is 60 nautical miles deep inside Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.

French officials support Vietnam’s East Sea stance

Senior French officials attribute the heightened tensions in the East Sea to China’s hegemonic policy, in which it attempts to dominate countries in the region through aggression and threats of force.

Addressing a Paris seminar on June 17 discussing the East Sea territorial dispute and China’s recent illegal and aggressive actions, they called on other European nations and the US to raise their collective voice in unison, opposing China’s hegemonic policy.

Vietnamese Ambassador to France Duong Chi Dung recalled China’s illegal placement of its floating drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 deep inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf, saying this action is threatening peace and stability, as well as safety, security and freedom of navigation and aviation in the region.

He said that China has deployed a fleet of vessels, including warships, and aircraft to protect the oil rig. These vessels intimidated and attacked Vietnamese law enforcement boats, injuring sailors and damaging their property. They even sank a Vietnamese fishing boat.

General Daniel Schaeffer, former French military attaché to China, Thailand and Vietnam, said China’s oil rig deployment in Vietnam’s EEZ was part of its ambition to legalise the so-called groundless nine-dash line in the East Sea.

He said China’s move violates international law and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Law of the Sea (DOC) and parties concerned cannot sit at the negotiating table if the nine-dash line is not clarified and addressed properly.