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International concern over East Sea crisis

Publication Date : 17-05-2014


Officials call on China and Vietnam to exert maximum restraint


Indonesian Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, has spoken out over the tensions in the East Sea caused by illegal placement of Chinese oil rig in Vietnamese waters.

In a press statement yesterday he expressed "deep and profound concern" over China's unilateral actions in the East Sea. "Indonesia is particularly concerned by the real risk of a major escalation and miscalculation posed by the dangerous manoeuvres by ships and naval vessels at sea," he added.

"(These) have caused injuries and material damage that have led to loss of lives, injuries and material damage."

"There's only one option in front of us: A peaceful settlement of disputes," he said. "The use of force, violations of international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the DOC have no place in our region today.".

The minister was referring to the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea inked by China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2002.

The ministry called on China and Vietnam to "exert maximum restraint" and "avoid measures that further add to tensions and risk serious escalation".

The Indonesian Foreign Minister later spoke to Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Pham Binh Minh, who called him by phone to discuss the situation.

In Hanoi, Minh phoned the foreign ministers of Indonesia (Marty Natelegawa), Singapore (K.Shanmugam) and Russia (Sergei Lavrov) to discuss boosting ties in the light of the setting up of an oil rig in Vietnamese waters.

Minh informed the ministers about the latest developments related to the oil rig, Haiyang Shiyou 981. He was particularly concerned about China's sending of a large number of vessels, including warships and missile-mounted escort ships, to Vietnam's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.

Minh said Vietnam strongly requested China to withdraw its rig and ships from Vietnam's waters, telling his counterparts about Vietnam's diplomatic efforts to ease tension.

The foreign ministers said Vietnam and China should use restraint and deal with disputes by peaceful means.

Mentioning recent demonstrations in some localities in Vietnam with Shanmugam, Minh said the situation had eased. He said the rallies and demonstrations in many industrial parks, including the Vietnam -Singapore Industrial Park No.1 and 2 in the southern province of Binh Duong, were spontaneous actions of workers to express their patriotic feelings and protest against China's illegal act.

However, he said a number of extremists had taken advantage of the occasion to incite the people to achieve their own goals.

Minh reiterated that Vietnam had taken necessary measures to stabilise the situation and punish those who caused public disorder and damaged property.

He said Vietnam attached special importance to ensuring security, safety and property for foreign investors, including those from Singapore. He said he hoped Singaporean investors would continue their operations in Binh Duong.

The Singaporean Foreign Minister said he appreciated all the measures taken by the Vietnamese Government.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich told reporters on Thursday Russia wanted China and Vietnam to seek solutions through negotiations, calling on all parties to show restraint.

More support

President of the India-Vietnam Solidarity Committee Geetesh Sharma has opposed China's violations of Vietnam's sovereignty.

Geetesh Sharma expressed deep concern over China's illegal placement of its drilling rig in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

More than 80 Chinese vessels, including military ships and aircraft, have massed to escort the rig.

"Those ships have constantly threatened and attacked Vietnamese ships operating in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam, causing heavy material damage and wounding many people," the Indian official said.

"Such actions by the Government of China not only seriously violate Vietnam's sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, but also run counter to international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," Sharma's statement said.

It added that this went against the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea signed by Asean member states and China. It also violated agreements on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related disputes between senior leaders of Vietnam and China.

These actions adversely affect people-to-people relations, the solidarity and friendship between Vietnam and China, peace movements in the region and the world besides threatening peace, security, stability and cooperation for mutual development in the region and the world.

"In fact, the expansionist and hegemonic policies of the Government of China is not a hidden agenda. They have demonstrated it time and again to bully the neighboring countries by intrusion into their sovereignty, the latest example being Vietnam," Sharma's statement said.

While strongly condemning their action, Geetesh Sharma called on the Chinese government to exercise restraint and go to the negotiation table abiding by the international law and precedence.

He said peace in the Asian region was in peril and that all peace loving forces should condemn such acts of intrusion.

"The Government and Non Government Officials (NGOs) in Vietnam should utilise all available platforms to apprise the global community of the situation and ensure peace in the region is not disturbed and justice is done to Vietnam," the statement said.

US opposition

The United States has continued to oppose China's recent actions in the East Sea. At the White House on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden expressed the US's serious concern about China's behaviour at a meeting with Chinese People's Liberation Army Chief of General Staff, Fang Fenghui.

According to the Vice President, peace and stability in the region had been undermined.

During the meeting with the Chinese official, Biden and other top US officials expressed the view that Beijing's behavior was "dangerous and provocative" and must stop.

They said China's actions with its neighbours in the East Sea were straining US-China relations and raised questions about whether Washington could work together with Beijing in Asia and on bilateral issues.

The same day, the US State Department issued another statement criticising China's "provocative" decision to set up the rig. "We are very concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation of this kind," deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

Earlier, the department warned China against its placement of the rig in the East Sea, describing it as a provocative act causing instability in the region.

The US and many other countries around the world shared the view, according to the department.

Support from Thailand

The Vietnamese community in Thailand released a statement on Thursday denouncing China's actions.

The statement made clear that such behaviour defied international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that China itself signed, and brazenly violated Vietnam's sovereignty.

The Chinese actions also ran counter to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) signed between China and the Asean members, raised instability and threatened the freedom of navigation in the East Sea.

The Thai Vietnamese said China's acts had also gone against a joint statement reached by leaders of both countries as well as agreements enhancing bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership.

They praised the Vietnam coast guard and fisheries surveillance forces for persistently staying at sea despite the violence and harassment by Chinese side.

They called on social organisations and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand to raise their voices in support of justice and international law to secure peace in the East Sea and the Asean region.

French backing

The France-Vietnam Friendship Association (FVFA) has strongly protested against China's deployment of the rig and military ships in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

In a letter to the Vietnamese Embassy in France, the association voiced deep concern about the issue, saying that China had seriously violated international law and put unacceptable pressure on neighbouring countries, especially Vietnam.

These negatively impacted on the cooperation agreements reached between China and Asean, especially the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), the association said.

The FVFA called on China to immediately remove its rig and surrounding ships out of Vietnam's waters as well as respect its commitments on building a code of conduct in the East Sea (COC).

The association also stressed the need to respect international law and those regulated in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) adopted at the 1982 Montego Bay Conference, which both Vietnam and China attended, saying that the recent incidents in the East Sea could not be solved by using force.

Meanwhile, the France-Vietnam Friendship Parliamentarian Group has also sent a letter to the French Foreign Minister calling for action.

The group is worried that unilateral acts can bring negative effects to security and stability in the region, suggesting that concerned countries should boost dialogue to seek peaceful and co-operative measures on the basis of international law, especially the UNCLOS, to ensure security and free navigation and maintain peace and stability in the region.

In a press release, the group expressed support for the European Union's statement on the tension in the East Sea and concern about China's actions.

Mexican support

Members of the Mexico–Vietnam Friendship Parliamentary Group and Mexican Chamber of Deputies have expressed support for Vietnam's legitimate rights and criticised China.

They stated this at an unscheduled meeting in Mexico City on Thursday, under the chair of group president and general secretary of the Workers' Party, Alberto Anaya Gutierrez.

They also issued a statement calling on China and Vietnam to seek a solution to their ongoing tension via dialogue or political moves in order to avoid any armed conflict.

The document urges the Senate and Chamber of Deputies' Foreign Relations Committees to request the United Nations to settle the dispute. It also sent a message of peace to both the Chinese and Vietnamese embassies.

Vietnamese Ambassador Le Thanh Tung attended the meeting and outlined all developments, including making it clear that Vietnam is steadfastly exercising restraint while using all dialogue channels and different levels of communication with China.

He said Vietnam had called on the United Nations, Asean states and the world community to protest against China's wrongful acts.

Tung said during the past fortnight, Vietnam had received support from many individuals, political and civil organisations abroad.

Safety for tourists

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism yesterday issued an urgent notice to its offices and travel and hospitality companies asking them to ensure absolute safety for tourists, including Chinese.

It called for a media campaign to keep tourists up-to-date on situation in the East Sea.


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