Maritime Dispute

China’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Zhang Zhijun, summoned Vietnam’s Ambassador to China, Nguyen Van Tho, on Thursday to lodge a formal complaint over Vietnam’s claims to the Xisha and Nansha islands and adjacent waters in the South China Sea.

Vietnam’s maritime claim ‘will harm ties’ with China

By Zhou Wa

Vietnam’s maritime law, which wrongly claims jurisdiction over Chinese islands, will seriously harm Sino-Vietnamese ties, experts said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun on Thursday summoned Vietnam’s Ambassador to China Nguyen Van Tho to lodge a solemn representation.

China has indisputable sovereignty over the Xisha and Nansha islands and adjacent waters in the South China Sea, and the Vietnamese law, passed on Thursday, violates China’s sovereignty, Zhang said.

Vietnam’s unilateral action has escalated the problem, went against consensus reached during top-level meetings and the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, Zhang said.

The national assembly in Vietnam on Thursday passed the “Vietnamese Law of the Sea”, which claims sovereignty and jurisdiction over China’s Xisha and Nansha islands in the South China Sea.

“Vietnam’s action is illegal, invalid and detrimental to peace and stability in the South China Sea,” said Zhang, adding that China will firmly safeguard national sovereignty.

China wants Vietnam to immediately correct its mistakes and refrain from any action that could further harm relations or threaten peace and stability in the South China Sea, he said.

Experts warned Vietnam that its law damages ties and breaks international law.

“Vietnam’s action has taken Sino-Vietnamese relations hostage and will make relations very difficult,” said Ruan Zongze, a specialist with the China Institute of International Studies.

The Vietnamese law fails to legalize its so-called claim over the Xisha and Nansha islands, Ruan said.

The law has no legal basis, because it violates international law, said Gong Yingchun, a specialist on international law with the Beijing-based China Foreign Affairs University.

“The laws Vietnam passes must be in line with international law,” Gong said, adding that it is a pre-condition for passing domestic laws to respect the sovereignty of other countries.

The legality that Vietnam claims does not exist according to the Charter of the United Nations, Gong said.

She added that the law doesn’t conform to maritime law, either, and it is not applicable to China because Vietnam unilaterally demarcated its so-called exclusive economic zone.

The Foreign Ministry protested against the law, stating that it is unlawful and invalid for any other country to claim sovereignty over the Xisha Islands and the Nansha Islands.

Vietnam’s emphasis on its “ruling” on the islands in the South China Sea came after Washington’s strategic military shift to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and an improvement in Washington-Hanoi ties.

Vietnam and the United States agreed to expand defense cooperation in five key areas, including maritime security, as US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met his counterpart in Vietnam in June.

Visiting Cam Ranh Bay, a former port used by US forces, Panetta said that Hanoi could play a pivotal role in the US military’s shift toward the Asia-Pacific region.

“It will be particularly important to be able to work with partners like Vietnam, to be able to use harbors like this, as we move our ships from our ports on the West Coast, (and) our stations here in the Pacific,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Vietnamese government also agreed to open three new sites for excavation by the US to search for troop remains from the Vietnam War.

Washington’s plans to shift the majority of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020 offers an opportunity for Vietnam, so that Hanoi can emphasize its “sovereignty” over Chinese islands, Ruan said.

As the US is seeking new partners in the Asia-Pacific region and Washington and Hanoi have agreed to improve bilateral ties, Vietnam may think that the US will support it in the issue, but this would be a misunderstanding, Ruan said.

Source: Asia One

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