Sunday, May 11, 2014

• Vietnam seeks global rebuke of China by Kyodo News

Vietnam has called on not only the 10-members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations but individuals and organisations around the world to protest against China for infringement of international law in the South China Sea, an Asean diplomat said Sunday.
"We express our deep gratitude to and urgently call on ASEAN members, other countries in the world, individuals, and international organizations, to continue voicing their protest against (Chinese actions in the South China Sea) as serious violations and support the legitimate demand by Vietnam," the diplomat quoted Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung as telling both the plenary and "retreat" sessions of the ASEAN leaders at their annual meeting Sunday in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw.

"In light of this extremely serious situation, Vietnam requests ASEAN to strengthen unity and strongly reaffirm the principles enshrined in the six-point principles on the South China Sea while demanding China observe international Law, the 1982 UNCLOS, especially to respect the continental shelf and the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone of coastal countries," Dung added.

Dung spent most of his 10-minute remarks at the plenary on the South China Sea, which he referred to as the East Sea. He told the leaders that since May 1 China has moved a drilling platform escorted by more than 80 armed civilian and military vessels into Vietnamese waters and installed the platform at a location 80 nautical miles into the Vietnamese continental shelf and exclusive economic zone as prescribed in the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. "This extremely dangerous action has been and is directly threatening peace, stability and maritime security and safety in the East Sea," Dung said.

On Saturday, after urging from Vietnam, the ASEAN foreign ministers issued a rare stand-alone statement expressing "serious concern" about growing tension over territorial claims in the South China Sea between China and several ASEAN members, but they failed to mention China, or any individual ASEAN state, by name in the statement.

Soon after the statement was issued in Myanmar, Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said China is "always opposed" to countries "attempting" to use the South China Sea issue to harm ""overall friendship and cooperation" between China and ASEAN.

As the top leaders of the 10-country bloc met Sunday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed sympathy with Vietnam by saying, "We have the moral courage to remind anybody that they should not use their military might, they should not use gunboat diplomacy for example, in the South China Sea, This is my opinion, and it's our strength in ASEAN," he said. Other leaders, at the later retreat designed for free-flowing discussions, seemed more ready to discuss issues beyond the Vietnam-Chinese impasse. Recently, there have been fears ASEAN unity might be disrupted by the maritime disputes that involve several countries in the bloc and outsider China, with those not sharing a maritime border with China afraid of upsetting the Asian powerhouse.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam are claimants in the South China Sea, with Vietnam and the Philippines the most vocal in expressing their rights.

One ASEAN diplomat suggested Vietnam made good progress in negotiations in Naypyitaw to get the rest of ASEAN on its side in the row with China, but the diplomat also suggested the solidarity may not extend much beyond expressions of support on paper over the longer term. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.