Vietnam raises East Sea disputes at Asian security forum

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Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh on Thursday led a delegation to attend an Asia-Pacific security forum in Singapore where recent problems in the East Sea are expected to dominate discussions.

 

The annual Shangri-La Dialogue this year, held June 3-5, has attracted the participation of 28 countries including major powers like the US and Russia. China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie will also attend the event for the first time where he will talk about China's international security cooperation.

 

Nguyen Chi Vinh, Vietnam's Deputy Defense Minister, told Thanh Nien that Thanh will draw attention in his speech to marine security issues, including territorial disputes and safety for fishermen.

 

"We will also mention security problems that are facing us and make public our security policies," Vinh said.

 

The tenth conference takes place amidst escalated tensions in Southeast Asia following recent clashes between China and regional countries in the East Sea.

 

Last Thursday, Chinese patrol ships entered Vietnam's territorial waters, cutting the cable of the state-owned Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group's ship which was then engaged in oil exploration work.

 

Vietnamese fishermen, meanwhile, have reported harassment by hundreds of Chinese ships while they were fishing in the country's waters. In some cases, they said, they were threatened with warning shots, prompting Vietnam's foreign ministry to send a protest note to the Chinese embassy in Hanoi on Thursday.

 

The Philippines has also accused China of illegally entering its waters and taking provocative action.

 

Local publication Malaya quoted the Philippines' Defense Secretary Voltaire Gamin as saying that he would bring up the matter at the conference.

 

Meanwhile, asked if Vietnam will talk about China's latest sovereignty violation, Vinh said: "I think what the international community and Vietnam are concerned about will be mentioned by the minister in his speech."

 

He said the Vietnamese delegation is also concerned about other major problems within the region and will support positive suggestions at the conference.

 

"The Vietnamese delegation aims to participate actively for the sake of peace and stability in the region, while protecting Vietnam's security and legitimate benefits," he said.

 

Clarity needed

 

Lawyer Hoang Ngoc Giao, former deputy chief of the foreign ministry's National Border Agency, told the Lao Dong newspaper that he hoped the East Sea's problems will be discussed "clearly" at the forum.

 

"If the East Sea's problems are discussed, it will be a good edge in terms of legality," Giao said.

 

He noted that marine security concerns in the Southeast Asian region were shared by US, Russia, India and other countries outside the region.

 

Giao, like other experts, felt Vietnam should stress its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes, and be firm in its response to China's attitude and contention that the East Sea was its "historical waters."

 

Vietnam needs to send warnings and protests to the United Nations, and ensure that its voice reaches the world, he said.

 

Vietnam also needs studies and reports on legal issues related to the East Sea.

 

"They are important documents of legality to show that our policies are right and legal," Giao said, urging the government to facilitate scholars' sharing their findings with othes in the region.

 

China has sent many of its scholars to work and study in Europe and North America, he said.

 

They have announced many academic materials showing their sovereignty over the archipelagos as well as the East Sea, but Vietnamese scholars have found those materials are fake and wrong.

 

"But they are still doing it. They are creating smokescreens everywhere."

 

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Ho Chi Minh City Phap Luat (Law) newspaper, Dinh Kim Phuc, an expert on seas and islands, warned that Vietnam should watch out for China's tactic of setting disputes aside and promoting joint-exploitation of resources when negotiating with other countries over disputed areas.

 

He said this "sounds like a détente", but in fact, it is an attacking strategy used at the negotiating table while waiting for a good chance to use force," Phuc said.

 

Phuc quoted experts on Chinese matters in Japan as saying that on one hand, China claims to solve disputes in peace, but on the other hand, it is trying to take up disputed areas with military force.

 

"Therefore, if we accept to negotiate with China with this way (on their terms), we will fall into their trap, accepting the premise that China has sovereignty over Vietnam's Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes," he said.

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