“China is trying to turn an undisputed area into a disputed area, and that is unacceptable”, Vietnamese Ambassador to the US Nguyen Quoc Cuong told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on May 28.

The diplomat said China’s deployment of an oil rig and many escort ships in Vietnam’s waters is a serious violation of Vietnam sovereignty and sovereign rights.

It also infringes international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea agreed by Chinese leaders and ASEAN in 2002, he added.

“The Vietnamese people have no other way but to respond peacefully but resolutely”, Cuong stressed.

Refuting Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai’s statement that China only has one rig while Vietnam has 30 in the waters, Cuong said Vietnam has been doing oil and gas exploration and exploitation in its continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for decades.

Many foreign companies have worked with the country in the field, and they won’t do that if the waters is a disputed area, he noted, adding that in 2012, China offered international bidding for some oil and gas lots in the continental shelf of Vietnam, but no foreign company accepted the offer.

Amanpour said China is flexing its muscle in territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors, from Japan to the Philippines to Vietnam. The attitude was summed up well by China’s then-foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, who in 2010 told his Singaporean counterpart that China is a big country and other countries are small countries.

In response, Ambassador Cuong said such an argument is unjustifiable, stressing that in foreign relations and international law, every country is on an equal footing.

He reiterated that Vietnam is following an independent foreign policy and wants good relations with China as well as with the US and other countries. But the country cannot accept coercion or threats.

Cuong stressed that the Vietnamese people are very determined to defend their sovereignty, and no country should underestimate their determination. He said all Vietnamese, no matter where they live, in Vietnam, in the US or in other countries, believe that nothing is more precious than independence and freedom.

At the beginning of May 2014, China illegally dispatched the rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 as well as a large fleet of armed vessels, military ships and aircraft to Vietnam’s waters and positioned the rig at 15 degrees 29 minutes 58 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 12 minutes 06 seconds east longitude. The location was 80 miles deep into Vietnam’s continental shelf and EEZ.

On May 27, China moved the rig to 15 degrees 33 minutes 22 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 34 minutes 36 seconds east longitude. The new location is 25 nautical miles from Tri Ton Island in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago and 23 nautical miles east-northeast from the old location, still completely within Vietnam’s continental shelf. With the move, China has kept on violating Vietnam’s sovereign right and jurisdiction.

At the same time, China’s armed vessels aggressively fired high-power water cannons at and intentionally rammed against Vietnamese public-service and civil ships, causing damage to many boats and injuring many people on board.

Chinese ships also continuously encircled, constrained and driven away Vietnamese fishing boats and even injured Vietnamese fishermen, threatening their lives.

On May 26, Chinese ship 11209 sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel while it was operating normally in its traditional fishing ground near Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago.

Such acts gravely violate international law, the 1982 UNCLOS, and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), to which China itself is a signatory. These extremely dangerous acts have been directly threatening peace, stability and maritime security and safety in the East Sea.

Vietnam has exercised utmost restraint, shown every gesture of goodwill and exhausted all dialogue channels to communicate with the Chinese authorities of different levels for expressing protest and demanding China to immediately withdraw its rig and armed and military vessels from Vietnam’s waters.
Nevertheless, up to now, China has failed to respond to Vietnam’s legitimate demand. On the contrary, it has been slandering and blaming Vietnam while continuing to escalate the use of force and acts of violation in an increasingly dangerous and serious manner.-VNA