China’s recent illegal acts in the East Sea have seriously infringed on Vietnam’s sovereignty, running counter to international law and practices and damaging the trust from the world community.

China’s bringing of a massive oil rig – escorted by a fleet of military, police and fishing vessels – to Lot 143, an oil and gas field in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone, over the weekend is a barren violation of Vietnam’s sovereign right and jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

To make things worse, the Chinese ships used water cannons against and rammed into Vietnamese coast guard vessels, damaging them and injuring crew members.

Turning a deaf ear to the resultant outcry across Vietnam and the world, including from many people within China, a Chinese official brazenly described the rig as “a Chinese border within the mobile national territory of China”. This is against the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea and the spirit of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to which China itself is a member.

Numerous countries from around the world, including Japan, Singapore and the US, have voiced their concern over the escalation, describing the move as a provocation and a threat to regional stability.

The East Sea dispute has also become a hot topic in all corners of the world. Among many others, it made headlines in the US newswire Foreign Policy and the major German newspapers Die Welt, Die Zeit and Der Spiegel.

“Regardless of how much energy actually lies under the ocean, Beijing's heavy-handed approach to regional relations and the damage it has caused could hardly be worth tapping some extra barrels of oil for,” commented Holly Morrow, an expert on the East Sea from Harvard University’s Belfer Center.

Vietnam will take all necessary and proper measures

Not only adversely affecting bilateral relations, China’s placement of the oil rig in Vietnam’s waters is viewed a confidence trick to the whole ASEAN. It challenges the group’s Six-point Principle on the East Sea issue adopted in July 2012. Can such behaviour from Beijing build among ASEAN members the image of a trustworthy China? It poses a threat to the ongoing negotiations for a Code of Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (COC), which other nations are working tirelessly to finalise.

China’s act raises the question of whether it is attempting to materialise its self-imposed and irrational “nine-dot” territorial claim in the waters. Why does China keep on taking actions that are detrimental to peace and stability in the East Sea? The question needs to be answered because this is not the first time that China has committed acts that further complicate dispute in the area. It is also not the first time our neighbour has approached the issue aggressively. It can be stated that such thoughts and actions are against the current mainstream goals in the world for cooperation, mutual respect and mutual trust building, which allow disputes to be settled peacefully to secure the balanced interests of concerned parties.

Vietnam has full legal and historical grounds to prove its sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos as well as its sovereign right and jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zones and continental shelf under provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982. Vietnam submitted to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, with its historical legal grounds proving its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago, in August 2009. China’s declaration of holding sovereignty over the archipelago, which it occupied by force in 1974, is groundless.

Vietnam is doing its best to pursue dialogue to peacefully settle all disputes with China, even when the situation has grown extremely tense. What has China done to “persistently use amiable consultation to satisfactorily settle sea-related issues to turn the East Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation”, as it agreed to do when it signed the Six-Point Principle on the Settlement of the East Sea Issue on October 11, 2011? The acts taken by China over the past days clearly have a negative effect on the political trust between the two countries and hurt Vietnamese people.

Vietnam is a peace-loving nation. The Vietnamese nation has never knelt down before any hegemonic forces. Vietnam will take all necessary and proper measures to defend its legitimate rights and benefits and safeguard its sovereignty.

For the Vietnamese nation, national sovereignty is supreme. No one has the right to violate Vietnam’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.-VNA