China’s illegal installation of its drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou - 981 deep within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf has sparked outrage among Vietnamese and peace-loving people worldwide, according to radio The Voice of Vietnam (VOV).

The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is considered a UN charter for all countries, especially coastal nations. China has signed the convention, and its recent positioning of its rig in Vietnam’s waters is a serious violation of the UNCLOS and the country’s sovereignty.

China deployed a flotilla to escort the rig, including military vessels that deliberately collided with and used water cannons to fire at Vietnamese coast guard and fisheries surveillance force.

Without doubt, China’s move seriously violates the UN Charter and in particular the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).

In an interview granted to VOV online, Professor Phan Huy Le, Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Historical Science, recalled historical and legal evidence that asserts Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, including Tri Ton island.

In 1974 China used force to occupy the Paracel which was under management of the South of Vietnam, and the move received strong protests from the then Saigon administration.

Since Vietnam was unified in 1975, the Vietnamese Government has constantly claimed its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) groups of islands.

China has now installed its oil rig near Tri Ton island deep within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, and it is an illegal act.

Professor Le confirmed China’s illegal placement of its drilling rig in Vietnam’s waters is China’s intentional step towards legalising its “nine-dotted line” map in an attempt to expand its territory to the south and take control of the East Sea.

He said the claim of the “nine-dotted line” or “bull tongue” demonstrates China’s East Sea expansion ambition. In 1947 a Chinese Internal Affairs official drew an 11-point line on China’s map, covering nearly 80% of the East Sea area, including Bac Bo (Tonkin) Gulf and exclusive economic zones of a number of Southeast Asian coastal nations.

One year later the Chinese Government legalised the map after eliminating two dots stretching to the Tonkin Gulf, calling it the nine-dash line or nine-dotted line.

In 2009, China submitted the map to the United Nations General Secretary, seeking for an approval. Immediately, China’s plan received strong opposition from Vietnam and other ASEAN nations, as well as the international community.

China failed to give any historical or legal evidence to verify its claim at international conferences on the East Sea.

Defying international opposition, China has gradually taken steps towards realising its East Sea expansion ambition.

“It is a dangerous act by China to take control of the East Sea, because it not only threatens marine sovereignty of Vietnam and other ASEAN nations, but also marine security and safety in the East Sea,” said Le.

Professor Le confirmed that Vietnam has sufficient legal evidence to defend its sovereignty and its plight has received widespread international support. The crux of the matter, according to Professor Le, is to take advantage of these favourable conditions to drive the struggle forward.

Defending marine sovereignty requires Vietnam to bring into full play the aggregate strength of the nation, promote the struggle through diplomatic channels, and make full and rational use of international support and legal instruments.

Professor Le said Vietnam is entitled to bring China to International Arbitration Court in The Hague in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as the Philippines did. He suggested legal experts learn from the Philippines’ case to come up with optimum solutions.-VNA