East Sea incident a pressing issue: Vietnamese Defense Minister

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Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh on Friday expressed his concerns to his Chinese counterpart, Liang Guanglie, about last week's incident  in the East Sea.

On May 26, a trio of Chinese boats entered Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone and severed cables linking a government-owned oil vessel to sensitive exploratory equipment.

Thanh said the incident has become a pressing issue for the Vietnamese public and has raised concern among the state and party leaders.

Thanh met with Liang on the sidelines of the 10th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asian Security Summit in Singapore --a three day series of talks that will conclude on June 5.

The Vietnamese Minister tempered his remarks with praise for the developing ties between Vietnam and China.

"Sometimes, regrettable cases happen which are beyond the expectations of both sides," Thanh was quoted as saying.

He asked that both sides adhere to their treaty commitments and settle the issue in a peaceful way.

Thanh stressed that the two sides must abide by international laws, including the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).

Liang agreed and responded by saying that the matter in the East Sea amounted to a sovereignty dispute. He said China is determined to settle the matter through diplomacy.

The East Sea dispute could take a long time to settle, Thanh said, therefore, the two nations' high-level state and party leaders should hold dialogues to work out a solution that is acceptable to both sides.

Vietnam is ready to cooperate with China in addressing areas over which the two sides had real disputes pursuant to UNCLOS 1982, he said.

Thanh also stated that the two countries' armed forces should maintain the utmost restraint in order to prevent clashes, and implement commitments made by the two countries' leaders.

Liang said he shared Thanh's view that the two sides must abide by international laws, (including the UNCLOS 1982) and added that China did not want a similar incident to reoccur in the future. Liang also made clear that the Chinese Liberation Army was not involved in the incident.

Minister Thanh said he would address the incident in his speech to be delivered before the 10th Shangri-La Dialogue on June 5.

The same day, Thanh held separate meetings with New Zealand's Minister of Defense, Wayne Mapp, and Mongolia's Minister of Defense, Luvsanvandan Bold.

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