Vietnam will keep solving disputes with peaceful measures, while protecting its sovereignty with determination, Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh told Thanh Nien in an interview.
Vinh and his superior, Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh, are at the Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual Asian security forum. The forum is being held June 3-5 in Singapore with the participation of 28 countries.
When asked about recent disputes between Vietnam and China in the East Sea, Deputy Defense Minister Vinh said that resolution lies in the thousands of years' experience in protecting the country - "enhance cooperation, increase shared interests, and decreasing conflicts, while still protecting territorial sovereignty."
"Vietnam always restrains and won't let problems get out of control and the limit which is set at "˜conflict'."
As for the Chinese patrol boats cutting the cable of the state-owned Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group's ship, which was then engaged in oil exploration work, the official said it was a clash between civil ships.
The related parties need to solve it in accordance with international laws, and report to the two countries' legal and management agencies, he said.
However, militaries need to keep a close watch on the situation so it doesn't get complicated, he added.
"In case of armed violation, the military will definitely interfere in to protect [Vietnamese ships]."
He added that Vietnam didn't stop the Chinese ships from entering its exclusive economic zone - the 200 mile marine border extending out from Vietnam's coastline, because under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, other countries' ships can move within the zone as long as they don't cause harm.
According to Vinh, the problem needs to be solved by Vietnam and China and there's no need to bring it to international judicial bodies as suggested by several experts, although it remains "an option."
"The solution that we have chosen determinedly is to solve the problem with China publicly and clearly," according to the official, who thinks it helps when the international community voices their opinions about it, making China re-think its acts.
In fact, disputes in the East Sea are not only related to Vietnam and China, but other countries with related interests in the region, he stressed.
Vietnam as well as the international community are now wondering if China is making its claim to 80 percent of the East Sea, starting with the latest attack on the Vietnamese ship, because "if it's true, it will harm the interests of all related countries," Vinh said.
"I totally expect adjustments and more proper awareness from China in the face of voices from the international community," the official said.
He said "the adjustment and more proper awareness" is also for the sake of China, because it now needs a peaceful and stable environment, and "a good image in the world" for its economic development as well as political relationships and prestige.
"Considering such benefits, we totally can expect China's adjustments," Vinh stressed.
The deputy minister said the latest accident, on the other hand, has also showed how Vietnam is determined to protect its sovereignty, considering how strongly it has protested against China's acts while spreading information to the international community, "showing to them which is right, which is wrong."
Moreover, the attacked ship now is still operating in the zone where it was attacked, he stressed.
Progresses in Vietnam US cooperation
Asked about the cooperation of national defense between Vietnam and the US, Vinh said it is developing, because the US has benefits from having relationships with countries in the Southeast Asia, "where Vietnam holds a proud position."
"Vietnam has the voice of justice, an important geopolitical position with the population of over 80 million, so it's obvious that the US has interests in Vietnam," he said.
Other reason is that the US always respects "Vietnam and its independence, territorial sovereignty, laws, together with the socialism regime," Vinh added.
According to Vinh, the two countries have recently cooperated in various fields like seeking the remains of US soldiers as well as Vietnamese missing during the Vietnam War.
The cooperation has also covered the fields that help recover post-war consequences like army health care, English teaching, and war bomb detection, he added.
"Vietnam also benefits from these activities which also help improve the countries' trust."