US Senator condemns China’s actions in East Sea

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U.S. Senator Ben Cardin chairs a press conference in Hanoi on May 28, 2014. Photo: Truong Son

Visiting U.S. Senator Ben Cardin attended a press conference in Hanoi on Wednesday to express U.S. opposition to China’s unilateral action in the East Sea, and that the recent attack of Vietnamese fishing boat was “unacceptable.”

“We think the situation is very tense and we have urged China to take actions to de-escalate rather than to provoke through the presence of their military vessels, and their interference with maritime activities,” Cardin said.

Cardin announced that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on which he serves has considered a resolution that condemns the use of force and advocates a peaceful diplomatic resolution to competing territorial and maritime claims.

The resolution has been approved by the Committee and is expected to be discussed on the Senate floor, shortly.

During his Vietnam visit, Cardin met with President Truong Tan Sang, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tran Van Hang.

While Cardin noted that the United States will take no position regarding competing territorial claims in the East Sea (known internationally as South China Sea), it does take a position against unilateral provocative actions.

The U.S. expects the countries involved in these disputes to refrain from provocative actions and hopes that they will de-escalate the situation and negotiate through international forums, such as those provided under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Cardin also called on concerned countries to expedite ASEAN’s efforts to formulate a Code of Conduct, and employ peaceful mechanisms to resolve international differences.

When asked to comment about the attack of a Chinese ship on a Vietnamese fishing boat off the coast of Vietnam earlier this week, Cardin said the action was “obviously unacceptable” and jeopardized not just property but human life.

Since the beginning of May, a number of Vietnamese fishing boats have been chased, rammed and damaged by the Chinese vessels. More seriously, Chinese forces have attacked, beaten and threatened the lives of Vietnamese fishermen.

In the latest incident, at around 4 pm on May 26, a Chinese ship rammed and sank a fishing boat piloted by captain Dang Van Nhan, 40, of the central city of Da Nang.

Cardin is among six U.S. lawmakers who on May 9 criticized China for its "deeply troubling" actions in disputed areas of the South China Sea, and urged passage of legislation that seeks peaceful solutions to rising maritime tensions.

"China's recent movement of an oil drilling rig escorted by military and other ships into disputed waters in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam -- and the subsequent aggressive tactics used by Chinese ships, including the ramming of Vietnamese ships -- is deeply troubling," the senators said in a statement.

"These actions threaten the free flow of global commerce in a vital region."

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