Vietnam’s sovereignty and security as well as regional peace are “threatened” by China’s decision to place an oil rig off Vietnam’s coast on May 2, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung told legislators in Hanoi today.
The friction at sea, which has led to collisions, the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat on May 26 and protests in Vietnam, is hurting ties between the two countries, Hung said in his address.
A high-level meeting between Vietnamese leaders and China’s top foreign policy official on June 18 failed to ease the daily sea skirmishes near the oil rig.
A video clip aired in Vietnam yesterday showed a Vietnamese fisheries surveillance vessel being rammed by a couple of Chinese ships in waters near the Paracel Islands, within Vietnam's exclusive economic zone.
The sea strife poses the most serious foreign policy crisis for Vietnam’s leaders in decades, said Ha Hoang Hop, visiting senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
“Vietnam’s politburo is torn about their policy on Vietnam’s relationship with China,” he said in a phone interview. “The fear is China won’t compromise. The last chance for sitting down and trying to resolve the dispute in the South China Sea is this summer. Otherwise, Vietnam will bring the case to an international tribunal.”
Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, said in Beijing on June 21 that his country “will never trade our core interests or swallow the bitter fruits that undermine our sovereignty, security and development interests.” China claimed that Vietnam has sent armed vessels to disrupt its oil operation, an accusation that Vietnam has rejected.
China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea under a 1940s-era map, including the Paracel Islands off Vietnam’s coast and the Spratly Islands to the south. Independent maritime experts, however, have pointed out the lack of
legal foundation under the international law for the claim.
Vietnam and China on June 18 held their first high-level meeting on the rig issue after Yang visited Hanoi under the auspices of the annual China-Vietnam Steering Committee on Bilateral Relations.
In an interview posted on the government website June 21, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang said his country “always treasures” its relationship with China. He also said Vietnam will “defend our land and sea.”
Sang quoted Vietnamese King Le Thanh Tong, “If you dare to concede even a single inch of the land of our ancestors to the enemy, it will be a crime deserving of death.”