Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh reaffirmed Vietnam’s resolve to defend its territory and sovereignty in an interview to Christie Lu Stout, editor of CNN’s News Stream, on May 29.

“We reaffirm that we have been very much firm and resolute to defend our territory and sovereignty. We'll continue to do so and take all peaceful measures under international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to protect and defend our sovereignty,” he said.

Vinh made the remarks while expressing the country’s strong protest against China’s illegal deployment of its oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 and a large number of escort vessels, including warships, deep inside the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf of Vietnam.

Vietnam “will take all peaceful measures under international laws including UNCLOS,” he said in reply to a question on Vietnam’s legal action now.

Regarding a query on how Vietnam sees China’s claim to the Hoang Sa (Paracel) islands, the Deputy FM affirmed that “the Paracel islands belongs to Vietnam. This is historical and legal fact.”

China in 1974 used military force to take the Paracel, Vinh said, emphasising that “we cannot accept it. So this is in violation of international law and we cannot accept it.”

In response to a question on Vietnam’s Foreign Minister in contact with the Chinese counterpart about this issue and the tension at the sea, Vinh said “since the illegal deployment of the oil rig by China into the EEZ and continental shelf of Vietnam, we have constantly been in contact with China’s side to ask them to get both the oil rig and ships out.”

The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Vietnam have been in contact with China's counterparts including two telephone calls to get the China in order to get the oil rig and ships out of the EEZ and continental shelf of Vietnam, he added.

Lu Stout asked “do you think there will be a breakthrough?”

“We’ll try to do, in talks with Chinese side, to preserve and defend our EEZ and continental shelf and ask the Chinese side to get their ships and oil rig out and continue to do so and together we will communicate also to the world in order to ask China to get the oil rig and ships out,” Vinh said.

Lu Stout queried “reports out this week of a Chinese ship ramming a Vietnamese fishing vessel. This has been seen by many as a provocative act. Is Vietnam angered by this?”

The Deputy FM said a Vietnamese fishing boat on May26 was “both rammed and sunk by Chinese ships,” affirming “this is an act of escalating tension in the region and it is intentional.”

Vietnam has protests this act and considered it “inhumane”, he said, adding “we request that such acts in the future must be stopped.”

Lu Stout asked “You call this inhumane. Is China bullying Vietnam at sea?”

Vinh said “I think you will observe the occurrence right now in the EEZ and continental shelf of Vietnam, there have been escalation of tension and acts of threats with regard to Vietnamese ships and also South China Sea or East Sea maritime security, freedom of navigation in the area. I must say all these acts happened in the EEZ of Vietnam, in violation of international law including UNCLOS.”.-VNA