While Vietnam wants to maintain long-held friendly relations with China, it does not accept any acts of coercion or threat, the Vietnamese ambassador to the US said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
Ambassador Nguyen Quoc Cuong said Vietnam has responded "peacefully but resolutely" to China's illegal deployment of an oil rig deep inside Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf since early May.
Cuong said China’s move is a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty, international law, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).
He refuted Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai’s earlier statement that China has the only oil rig while Vietnam has developed more than 30 in the region.
China is creating facts on the ground, and trying to turn an undisputed area into a disputed area, he said.
Vietnam has carried out oil and gas exploration and exploitation in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf for decades. Many foreign oil companies have joined these projects.
China in 2012 invited international bids for oil projects in Vietnam’s waters, but received no response.
During the interview, Amanpour expressed concern about China’s oil rig placement and especially its recent sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat. She said China is flexing its muscle in territorial disputes with not only Vietnam, but also Japan and the Philippines.
She cited a an article published on the Washington Post in 2010, which quoted Yang Jiechi, then Chinese foreign minster, as telling his Singaporean counterpart that “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that's just a fact.”
“It’s [an] unjustifiable argument,” stressed ambassador Cuong.
“We cannot accept the coercion; we cannot accept threats. And when the issue of sovereignty and national integrity is concerned, the Vietnamese people are very determined to defend our sovereignty rights.”
“No country should underestimate the Vietnamese people’s determination to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights.”