The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a press conference in Hanoi on Sunday to protest China's illegal attack on a Vietnamese ship while it was engaged in oil explorations on May 26.
On Thursday, three Chinese vessels illegally entered Vietnnamese waters and surrounded PetroVietnam's Binh Minh No.2 while it was conducting a routine seismic survey.
Without warning, the ships severed the state-owned vessel's observation cables and chased it under threat of violence.
During Sunday's conference, Ministry Spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga condemned China's claims that the state-owned oil and gas vessel had been operating in Chinese waters.
Quan doi Nhan dan (People's Army) newspaper: On May 28, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu said that Vietnam had infringed upon China's interests and management rights in the East Sea by conducting oil exploration in its waters. China further claimed that its actions to date have fully complied with international maritime law. China also asserted that it has always strived to maintain peace in the East Sea. What is Vietnam's response to these claims?
Nguyen Phuong Nga: I stress that Vietnam totally rejects all of the claims that China made on May 28. We need to clarify the following points:
Firstly, the area in which PetroVietnam was conducting its oil exploration falls well inside Vietnam's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf that was established by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is definitely not a disputed area; and it's impossible to assert that it is managed by China.
China is deliberately misleading the public by attempting to describe an undisputed area as a disputed one.
Secondly, Vietnam always adheres to the common understanding of the two countries' high-ranking leaders. It solves disputes through peaceful diplomacy and never misses an opportunity to deescalate a tense situation.
However, it needs to be known that no understanding currently exists that permits China to hinder Vietnam's activities in its exclusive economic zone.
China has violated our common understanding. China has called for peaceful resoloution, but it's actions are complicating the situation in the East Sea.
VietnamNet newswire: Chinese leaders have repeatedly emphasized that China maintains the policy of solving disputes in peace, and has not "proclaimed itself a king" despite its rapid economic development. Does this incident betray China's chauvinism?
Nga: We hope that China, as a big country, will wield its power responsibly and in accordance with the claims of its high-ranking leaders.
Tuoi Tre: China's recent actions in the East Sea have become increasingly provocative. Chinese vessels have not only clashed with Vietnamese ships but those belonging to other countries (like the Philippines) as well. Can we interpret these actions as part of a larger effort to turn the East Sea into its territory--as has been indicated by its recent maps?
Nguyen Duy Chien, deputy chairman of Vietnam's National Border Committee: It is very obvious that China's nine-dashed line claim [a nautical map that claims nearly all of the East Sea as Chinese waters] has no basis in international law.
The claim violates the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of which China was a signatory. The [new maps] violate the exclusive economic zones and continental shelves of many countries in the region, including Vietnam, and has sparked protests from all of those affected.
That China is trying to apply its nine-dashed line claim has clearly increased tension In the region.
The Financial Times: After this most recent incident, will the Vietnamese Navy imcrease patrols to protect fishing boats operating in Vietnamese waters?
Nga: Vietnam's national defense policy is peace and defense.
MORE THAN A TERRITORIAL EXPANSION
An article published in Monday's, Saigon Tiep Thi quoted Duong Danh Dy, a researcher who specializes in China, as saying that the recent violation of Vietnam's sovereignty is about more than just territorial expansion.
Dy claimed China is fomenting international disputes in an attempt to distract its population from problems at home, like insecurity in Inner Mongolia and the explosions in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, on May 26.
Liang Guanglie, China's Minister of National Defense, recently visited three ASEAN countries to test the region's solidarity, he added.
According to Dy, the East Sea is important to China because of its natural resources as well as its globally strategic position which is of interest of other powers, including the US, Russia and Japan.
"China is testing the water now," Dy said.
According to Dy, Vietnam needs to act now to disrupt China's scheme. "Vietnam must be determined," he said.
Dy added that if China launched a millitary attack, other countries would respond.
"The very important factor here is the solidarity of ASEAN (members)."
The Vietnamese navy will do everything necessary to protect the country's peace, independence and territorial integrity.
During Sunday's press conference, Do Van Hau, vice chairman of PetroVietnam (PVN), reiterated that Vietnam clearly has the right to explore oil reserves that sit roughly 120 nautical miles off of Vietnam's central coast, and about 340 nautical miles from Hainan Island, the nearest Chinese territory.
Hau further accused China of premeditating its attack on PVN's ship.
Without using specialized equipment, he said, it would have been impossible to for the Chinese vessels to sever the ship's observation equipment, which ran some 30 meters underwater.
The Financial Times: PetroVietnam (PVN)'s representative mentioned China's threat of violence. Did the two parties communicate directly then? What is your comment on the threat?
Do Van Hau, vice chairman of PVN: When the Chinese ships approached the Binh Minh No.2 and began cutting its cables, the ship's efforts to establish communication were all ignored.
However, after the cables were cut, the Chinese ships radioed the crew and accused them of having illegally entered China's territorial waters. The ships then demanded that the Binh Minh No.2 leave the area.
The crew said that a female radio operator had made the demands. It is a pity that we don't have a recording of the exchange here.
Lao Dong: What kind of losses has PetroVietnam suffered, due to this incident?
Hau: China has has hurt PetroVietnam in two ways.
First, it damaged vital equipment necessary for Vietnam to conduct seismic surveys. By severing the ship's observation cables they have also damaged the Binh Minh No.2's system of sending and receiving signals.
We've had to delay our operations for two days to replace the damaged devices and we will have to conduct subsequent repairs at a later date. We are currently estimating the losses and will produce a detailed report on the incident.
Secondly, PVN has signed many oil and gas agreements on Vietnam's continental shelf with foreign investors, including the area where we are conducting surveys. This is absolutely not a disputed area. But this incident will certailny affect investors' policies, sentiment and operations.
However, I have confirmed that all these investors are all aware that PetroVietnam's joint operations fall well inside Vietnam's territorial waters.
Thanh Nien newspaper: It's been said that China has repeatedly sabotaged Vietnam's oil exploration efforts along its continental shelf. We've heard reports that Chinese vessels have cut the observation cables on foreign ships hired by Vietnam to survey the continetal shelf before. Can you clarify this information?
Hau: Vietnam's oil and gas operations range from the Bac Bo Gulf to the Ca Mau Cape. The areas where China has encroached belong to some areas which we consider "sensitive." PVN's operations include seismic surveys and surveys related to drilling rigs. Many of these activities have been disturbed by Chinese patrol ships and aircrafts which have severed observation cables in the past. In all the cases, Vietnam strongly protested.