The Senior Officials’ Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (SOM ARF) opened on June 9 in Yangon, Myanmar, giving much space for the East Sea issue.

Representatives from 27 ARF countries, the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat raised their deep concerns about the escalating tension in the Ease Sea.

They underscored the need to practice restraint, while strongly condemning unilateral moves that infringe international law, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).

They also highlighted the necessity of strictly observing international law, the 1982 UNCLOS and DOC, and working towards the formation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea.

Addressing the event, Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh laid stress on the importance of peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea, saying these are common concerns of countries in and outside the region.

He said serious violations are taking place in the East Sea, with China’s illegal deployment of its oil rig and a large number of surrounding ships to Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf since the beginning of May.

Chinese ships have continuously conducted provocative actions of ramming and firing water cannons at Vietnamese law enforcement vessels, damaging many fisheries surveillance, coast guard and fishing ships of Vietnam, he said.

China’s actions are a grave breach of international law and the 1982 UNCLOS, intensifying tension in the East Sea and directly harm peace, stability and maritime security and safety in the sea, stated Vinh.

Vietnam requests China to immediately recall the rig and all of its ships from Vietnam’s waters, he stressed.

On May 10, ASEAN Foreign Ministers issued a joint statement voicing deep concern over the aforementioned incidents, stressing the need of complying with international law, the 1982 UNCLOS and DOC, demanding all sides restrain from actions that mar regional peace and stability, settling disputes through peaceful measures, and not using or threatening to use force.

The agreement has received strong support from countries in the region and around the globe.

Vietnam resolutely safeguards its sovereignty and waters, Vinh said, adding that the country has exercised utmost restraint and consistently used dialogues and peaceful measures in accordance with international law to demand China withdraw its oil rig and escort ships.

Vinh voiced the serious compliance with international law and the UNCLOS 1982, supported the full and effective observance of DOC regulations, and stressed the urgent need of soon completing the COC to ensure peace, stability, security and safety of navigation in the East Sea.

Regarding ARF’s future directions, Deputy Minister Vinh asked it to pay special attention to building trust amidst increasing strategic competition among big countries in the region as well as complex traditional and non-traditional security challenges.

To that end, ARF needs to further push up principles of trust, equality, mutual respect and compliance with international law.

It also has to boost the construction and sharing of common standards of conduct for regional peace, security, stability, cooperation and development, Vinh said.-VNA