The Vietnam Lawyers Association has released a statement opposing the invitation for bids for nine lots in the East Sea by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).

The CNOOC recently invited international bids for nine lots which are situated deep within Vietnam’s continental shelf and overlap lots 128 to 132 and 145 to 156 where PetroVietnam has been operating for a long time.

“This is not a disputed area,” said the association, adding that it completely supports the statement released by the Foreign Ministry spokesperson on June 26.

The association also “strongly protests and requests that the Chinese side stop the wrongful invitation for bids and not take any further action to inflame the situation in the East Sea or inflate the dispute.”

This act taken by the CNOOC seriously violates the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Clauses 58, 76 and 77) to which China itself is a member. This also seriously violates Vietnam’s sovereign right and jurisdiction over the country’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.

This act is counter to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) signed between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2002, as well as the agreement on the fundamental principles that guide the settlement of disputes at sea signed by Vietnam and China in October, 2011.

The association demands that the Chinese side observe the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as well as all other related international laws and adhere to the commitments made in the DOC.

It calls on legal circles around the world to cry out for justice and asks multi-national oil and gas companies to respect Vietnam’s sovereign right and jurisdiction and not take part in the CNOOC’s invitation for bids.

The Vietnam Lawyers’ Association also says it supports the statement made by the Foreign Ministry spokesperson on June 21 and strongly condemns China ’s decision to establish the so called Sansha city. This seriously violates Vietnam’s indisputable sovereignty over the Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelagoes.
In the statement, the association adds that it always wants to promote the traditional friendship and cooperation between the Vietnamese and Chinese people and both legal circles in particular.

At the same time, it is willing to do its utmost to protect justice, international laws, respect sovereignty independence and the territorial integrity of nations to maintain peace and security in the region and the world.

Several international scholars also said that the lots in the East Sea that the CNOOC has invited bids for are within Vietnam’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

The scholars made the remarks at an international seminar on the East Sea, which was held in Washington in the US on June 27 and 28 by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Professor Carlyle Thayer from the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said that it is to "retaliate, to play back, for Vietnam's passing its law by offering oil exploration blocks, all of which are in Vietnam economic zone." He believed that it's more of a political act than a commercial one by China.

Dr. Bonnie Glasser, senior fellow with the CSIS Freeman Chair in China Studies, said that foreign oil companies will see "very high potential for some kind of conflict". "I think that they will think twice before they would want to participate in bidding at this point ... large companies like Chevron would be quite reluctant," she said.

Addressing the seminar on June 28, US Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) said that the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation’s (CNOOC) announcement to invite international bids for nine oil and gas blocks within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone is "quite provocative". "On its face," he said, "it's an unprecedented and unfounded claim, that’s within an economic zone recognized by international law that is Vietnam’s".

The senator believed that it's "a response to the Vietnam asserting its own legal rights by domestic law just last week".

At the seminar, academics from China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, India, Japan and the US discussed issues relating to recent developments in the East Sea, US-China- ASEAN relations and international laws and practices when solving disputes.

Kunt Campell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs also attended the event.-VNA