Vietnam and China are two neighboring countries, which are continuing through diplomatic channels to resolve disputes in the East Sea to reduce tensions in relations between the two countries and in the region.
As an active member in ASEAN, Vietnam wants ASEAN to play a role in ensuring a region of peace and stability, especially in the first six months of 2019, China has conducted activities what are contrary to the spirit of resolving disputes in the East Sea area.
To improve and promote bilateral relations, Vietnam National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan made an official visit to China from 8-12 July 2019. Vietnam has assessed the visit to be very successful with some important results achieved. The visit also showed that the leaders of the two countries had political trust and continued to unify on a number of strategic issues.
Beijing responded to Hanoi’s suggestion to strengthen cooperation, friendliness and tradition. Chinese President Xi Jinping also spoke of emphasizing the protection of peace and stability at sea with concrete actions. It is undeniable that China is a major partner in the Asia-Pacific region, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a member of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). ) 1982. Therefore, China must have the responsibility and obligation to contribute to a peaceful and stable environment, promoting cooperation and friendship across the world, Southeast Asia.
In Southeast Asia, China has diplomatic relations with ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam. However, at least four ASEAN members including Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam are all facing the same issue of territorial sovereignty in the East Sea in the face of increased Chinese influence. Therefore, as one of ASEAN’s partners, China needs to fulfill its commitments to peace in the region.
In the short term, China, with its financial, economic and military power, may dominate, but in the long run it will face risks from actions from its neighbors in ASEAN and the common responses from the international community to China’s violation of sovereignty in the East Sea.
Countries in the region are trying to be patient on China’s activities to comply with the law in the East Sea issue. The actions of Vietnam and other countries mentioned above are not a weakness or an attitude of their acceptance but a show of goodwill.
The statement of the Chairman of the 34th ASEAN Summit in June 2019 reflects ASEAN’s concern and role in the East Sea issue, including positive progress in the negotiations between ASEAN and China. National Code of Conduct (COC) and through “ASEAN’s Vision for the Indo-Pacific”. In particular, affirming the principles that ensure ASEAN’s central role, embracing and promoting regional economic cooperation based on current rules. However, ASEAN has been criticized for repeatedly making cautious statements regarding China’s accretion and reclamation activities in the East Sea. This can undermine trust, increase tensions and can disrupt peace, security and stability in the region.
The ASEAN Declaration concerning the East Sea issue did not fully reflect the reality of what happened in this region in the first six months of 2019. In June, a Chinese ship sank a Philippines fishing boat in Bai Co Rong (Recto Bank) and left 22 Filipino fishing crew “to the mercy of the elements”. After constructing artificial islands and building military installations on a number of entities in the East Sea, China conducted anti-ship missile launches in early July 2019.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) has reported that in May 2019 the China Coast Guard (CCG) Haijing 35111 vessel has prevented Malaysia’s oil rig operation near the Luconia coast off Sarawak, Malaysia. In July, China commissioned the survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 to conduct illegal surveys in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. The survey vessel was protected by at least four Chinese maritime vessels. In response, Vietnam has deployed a group of coast guard vessels and reacted through diplomatic channels with China violating Vietnam’s legal sovereignty and violating international law. The United States has condemned China’s provocative actions in the East Sea and called it a threat to maritime security in Southeast Asia, as well as a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
The operation of ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 may disrupt joint efforts in the COC negotiation process, posing challenges to peace and stability in the East Sea, especially in the context that China continues to accuse US Navy presence and Western military forces in the region.
Meanwhile, Professor Carl Thayer (Australia) spoke out against China’s behavior and called for stronger intervention from powers such as the US, UK or Japan and regional multilateral organizations such as ARF, EAS and ADMM +. According to him, Beijing should understand that Vietnam will assume the role of Chairman of ASEAN and a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council by 2020.
History shows that Vietnam will use all peaceful means to protect its legitimate interests. Vietnam and several other countries in the region seem to be disappointed by China’s aggressive and arrogant actions in the East Sea. If China continues to make the East Sea unstable, Vietnam and other countries in the region can continue to call for more solidarity and bring these issues to discuss in multilateral forums in next time.
Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS) is a leading national center for basic research, policy advice and training in the field of social sciences and humanities.