Shangri-La Dialogue: Vietnam’s security closely linked with regional security
The statement was made by the Minister of National Defence of Vietnam, General Phung Quang Thanh, at a plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 5.
Thanh affirmed that Vietnam will work to further promote confidence building, develop friendly and cooperative relationship with neighbouring countries and those in the region and the world for peace, stability and development.
As sea security attached special attention at the event, in his speech on the theme of “Responding to New Maritime Security Threats”, Minister Thanh said the situation in the East Sea in general remains stable but clashing incidents have happened from time to time, giving rise to concerns for the littoral states.
The most recent one took place on May 26, 2011 when the Binh Minh 02 – a Vietnamese surveying ship conducting its normal oil and gas exploration activities well within Vietnam’s 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone was interrupted with its surveying cables cut, which has caused a considerable concern on the maintenance of peace and stability in the East Sea, in the region as well as the wider world, he said.
After his speech, the Vietnamese minister gave clear and logical answers to questions relating to recent developments in the East Sea and Vietnam ’s national defence policy.
He said there are now sovereignty disputes between China , Vietnam , the Philippines , Malaysia and Brunei in the East Sea . Due to a lack of demarcation of the waters, sometimes regrettable incidents have happened in the East Sea .
Not only the May 26 case, when Vietnam conducted surveys in 2010 to set up its dossier on the outside boundaries of the continental shelf to report to the United Nation, Vietnamese ships’ surveying cables were also cut by Chinese vessels.
In addition, there were cases when China seized Vietnamese fishing boats and obstructed Vietnam from conducting oil and gas exploration activities in the East Sea within its exclusive economic zone.
Such cases breached the international laws and the Declaration on the Conducts of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), raising concerns for Vietnam and regional countries, the minister stressed.
Regarding the zoning-off of fishing areas for fishermen, Minister Thanh affirmed that Vietnam always abides by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) and guides its fishermen on fishing areas in the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
However, sometimes Vietnamese fishermen violate the waters of surrounding countries and fishermen of other countries also violate Vietnam’s waters, he said, adding that such cases should be solved in line with international laws and in the spirit of friendly neighbourhood and humanity, and there should be no violation of the body and property of fishermen.
Minister Thanh emphasised the need for close cooperation in fisheries between littoral countries, joint patrols by countries’ naval forces and the establishment of a hotline to maintain marine security and order, thus facilitating fishermen’s activities.
He pointed out that every year, China issued orders to forbid fishing activities during fish breeding season to protect aquatic resources but the ban is also applied for fishing activities in the waters of Vietnam .
“ Vietnam did not agree with this act and had voice its opposition through diplomatic ways,” Thanh said.
The minister affirmed Vietnam ’s policy that bilateral disputes in the East Sea should be settled bilaterally and multilateral disputes should be addressed through multilateral negotiations.
He said the “nine-dotted” line in the East Sea announced by China is a multilateral dispute. The line has no legal ground whatsoever and runs counter to the UNCLOS 1982, he said, adding that China should negotiate with related countries on the basis of international laws, especially the UNCLOS 1982, and in the spirit of friendship, to put forth fair and rational solutions acceptable to all parties in order to reach the goal of peace and development in the region.
He went on to say that Vietnam plans to organise cultural and sports exchanges for the armed forces of Vietnam and the Philippines who are stationed in Vietnam’s Song Tu Tay island and the Philippines-controlled Song Tu Dong (Northeast Cay) to build trust, strengthen friendship as well as ease tensions and prevent conflicts.
According to the minister, during its term as ASEAN Chair, Indonesia has closely coordinated with other ASEAN member countries to maintain peace and stability in the East Sea .
At the fifth ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta last month, the ministers reached a consensus on the assessment of the situation and put forth measures to maintain peace and stability in the East Sea , he said.
In particular, in the joint statement of the meeting, the sides pledged to fully implement the DOC, working towards the conclusion of the Code of Conducts in the East Sea (COC) between ASEAN and China , he added.
Regarding a question why Taiwan hasn’t had any opportunity to join in the settlement of disputes in the East Sea , Minister Thanh said this is an issue within the “one-China” policy as Taiwan is part of China ’s territory and Taiwan and China should carry out discussions among themselves to have a common representative.
Relating to Vietnam ’s purchase of submarines, the Vietnamese minister stated that Vietnam signed a contract to buy six Russian-built Kilo-class submarines, and these submarines will only operate in the waters of Vietnam and this is a normal activity which is very open and transparent.
He said that Vietnam is implementing two strategic tasks that are building and defending the nation. In the current situation, economic development is defined as the central task and ensuring defence-security to protect national independence, sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity is an essential and regular task.
When the economy develops, Vietnam will gradually modernise its army with priority to be given to the navy, the air force – air defence and communications to protect national peace and the country, he added.
“ Vietnam’s defence policy focuses on defence, not targets any other country and never invades other countries’ territories,” he affirmed.
Minister Thanh applauded and highly valued Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie’s speech at the 10 th Shangri-La Dialogue, saying that it clearly expresses China's foreign policy of peace and responsibility in its peaceful development process.
Vietnam always believes that when China, a socialist country, has peaceful development and friendly, solidarity and cooperative ties with neighbouring countries as well as those in the region and the world at large, including Vietnam, it will be a favourable condition for Vietnam, the region and the world, he said, stressing that Vietnam hopes China do what it has said to the world.
In the evening of June 5, Minister Thanh and his entourage arrived in Hanoi , concluding their trip to attend the 10 th Shangri-La Dialogue./.
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