Hanoi on Friday applauded a U.S. resolution that calls on Beijing to remove an oil rig and its escort vessels from their current positions in Vietnamese waters in the East Vietnam Sea and to return to the status quo as it existed before May 1, 2014.
In a statement sent to the press on July 11, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said the Southeast Asian country welcomes the resolution S.RES.412 passed by the U.S. Senate which requests China to withdraw its Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig and associated maritime forces from their current positions, to refrain from maritime maneuvers contrary to the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).
The Vietnamese spokesman also hoped that countries in and outside Asia-Pacific, including the U.S., will continue their strong, practical, effective and constructive contributions to peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the region.
The resolution S.RES.412, which was unanimously passed by the U.S. Senate on July 10, reaffirms the strong support of the United States government for freedom of navigation and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace in the Asia-Pacific region, and for the peaceful diplomatic resolution of outstanding territorial and maritime claims and disputes.
Under this newly-passed resolution, the U.S. condemns coercive and threatening actions or the use of force to impede freedom of operations in international airspace by military or civilian aircraft to alter the status quo or to destabilize the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S. calls on China to return to the status quo as it existed before May 1, 2014.
Washington also urges Beijing to refrain from implementing the declared East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which is contrary to freedom of overflight in international airspace, and to refrain from taking similar provocative actions elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region.
S.RES.412 affirms that it is the policy of the United States to call on claimants to clarify or adjust claims in accordance with international law, to support efforts by ASEAN and China to develop an effective Code of Conduct in the East Vietnam Sea, and to encourage claimants not to undertake new unilateral attempts to change the status quo since the signing of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Vietnam Sea, including not asserting administrative measures or controls in disputed areas in the sea.
China violates international law
The resolution says that on May 1, 2014 China’s state-owned energy company, CNOOC, placed its deepwater semi-submersible drilling rig Hai Yang Shi You 981 (HD–981), accompanied by over 25 Chinese ships, in Block 143, 120 nautical miles off Vietnam’s coastline.
From May 1 to May 9, 2014, the number of Chinese vessels escorting HD–981 increased to more than 80, including seven military ships, which aggressively patrolled and intimidated Vietnamese Coast Guard ships in violation of COLREGS, intentionally rammed multiple Vietnamese vessels, and used helicopters and water cannons to obstruct others, the document added.
On May 5, 2014, vessels from the Maritime Safety Administration of China (MSAC) established an exclusion zone with a radius of three nautical miles around HD–981, which undermines maritime safety in the area and is in violation of universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The resolution underscores that China’s territorial claims and associated maritime actions in support of the drilling activity that HD-981 commenced on May 1, 2014 have not been clarified under international law – including as defined by the UNCLOS – constitute a unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force, and appear to be in violation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Vietnam Sea.
Beijing has still maintained its drilling rig within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf since the beginning of May despite vehement protests from Hanoi, which has repeatedly demanded that China withdraw the rig from the area immediately and unconditionally.