Following China’s illegal placement of its drilling rig in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, Vietnamese scholars in the US said the act seriously violates international law and applauded the measures Vietnam is taking in response to the incident.

Dr. Ngo Nhu Binh, Director of the Vietnamese Language Programme in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilisation at Harvard University expressed strong protest against China’s act, saying that the placement of the oil rig is more of a political move than an economic goal.

“China has a great ambition for the East Sea, and the nine-dot line is an obvious manifestation of this expansionism. I organised a seminar on sea and islands in January this year with many foreign experts invited to the event. None of them recognised the nine-dot line,” Binh told New York-based Vietnam News Agency correspondents.

The lecturer hailed the response of the Vietnamese government to China’s act, and said he thought now is the time for Vietnam to take the matter to an international court. According to Binh, Vietnam should consult international law experts about this issue and study the experience of the Philippines.

“Once we take the matter to an international court, we must have firm legal foundation,” he said.

Lawyer Ta Van Tai, a former lecturer at Harvard Law School, noted that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) requires that concerned parties engage in talks and conciliation procedures before taking compulsory procedures entailing binding decisions. Therefore, bilateral and multi-lateral diplomatic talks are a must.

Tai suggested that Vietnam can also take the issue to the United National General Assembly or the UN Security Council, saying that a resolution adopted by the former could deter China. He said while the matter could be vetoed by China at the UN Security Council, Vietnam should still raise the issue because this is a necessary step when international peace and security are under threat as they are in this case with Chinese ships acting threateningly and using force to intimidate Vietnamese fisheries surveillance vessels, marine police and fishermen. 

Nguyen Ba Chung, a researcher at the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, said he was glad Vietnam enjoyed the world’s support over the incident.

“The Vietnamese government’s point of view is very clear, if China does not remove its rig, Vietnam will take other actions, and this point of view receives support from Vietnamese worldwide,” he said. 

Chung noted that China’s act triggered a strong reaction among the overseas Vietnamese community. Among the academic circle in the US, the general opinion is that China’s act is unreasonable. The focus of discussion now is what the US should do to counter China’s aggressive move in the East Sea.

The researcher said as there is no way for Vietnam to stop similar moves by China in the future, sooner or later Vietnam will have to take China to an international court.

He added that China might not appear in court because they know they would lose, but he said at least the world would very clearly see that China is in the wrong, making it difficult for China to continue using its power to bully other countries in the East Sea.-VNA