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ASEAN needs to strengthen role in settling sea disputes: Vietnam official

ASEAN should intensify efforts to ensure that international law be enforced in reality, in order to protect peace, stability, and maritime safety and security in the region, Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh has said.

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Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Quang Vinh (R) talks with delegates at the ASEAN SOM in Hanoi on June 27, 2014.
Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Quang Vinh (R) talks with delegates at the ASEAN SOM in Hanoi on June 27, 2014.

Deputy FM Vinh made the statement while speaking at the special Senior Officials Meeting of ASEAN (ASEAN SOM) that took place in Hanoi on June 27 to discuss the bloc’s central role and strategic orientations for the future regional structure.

He also said ASEAN should back efforts that help ensure the compliance of international law, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Vietnam Sea (DOC).

The ASEAN should also speak out against the use of force to claim sovereignty, he added.

“This is a significant principle of ASEAN in respect to international relations. Any use or threat of force to claim sovereignty must be ruled out,” Vinh said.

The Vietnamese official updated the meeting on the East Vietnam Sea situation that has become very tense since China illegally placed its Haiyan Shiyou 981 rig and the rig’s escorting ships deep inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf since early May.

These Chinese ships continuously rammed or fired water cannons at Vietnamese vessels, injuring a dozen of Vietnamese fisheries surveillance officers and damaging ships of both the Vietnamese law enforcement forces and fishermen, he said.

Such acts have seriously violated international law, the 1982 UNCLOS and the DOC signed by ASEAN and China.

He highly appreciated the statement of ASEAN foreign ministers issued on May 10 and called on ASEAN to intensify efforts to ensure that international law, the UNCLOS, the DOC and ASEAN statements be enforced and that China put an end to its acts and immediately pull its rig and ships out of Vietnam’s waters.

The meeting’s participants underlined the need to abide by international law, the UNCLOS, and related agreements in the region, especially the full implementation of the DOC to which China is a signatory.

They called for efforts towards an early conclusion of a Code of Conduct on the East Vietnam Sea (COC) in order to better ensure peace, stability and security in the region.

Heads of SOM ASEAN also discussed the results of the ASEAN-China Joint Working Group which took place in Bali on June 24-25, and gave opinions on the implementation of the DOC and pushing for negotiations with China on the COC.

In talking with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on the sideline of the meeting, Aung Lynn, head of the delegation of Myanmar, which is holding the rotary chairman of ASEAN, rejected the news by saying that China does not want to proceed with discussions on COC.

Aung Lynn said that China clearly knows about its relations with ASEAN in every issue including the East Vietnam Sea issue.

He said ASEAN and China are in the process of working toward COC, and that he hoped there would be progress in the process.