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China hastening illegal occupation of East Vietnam Sea: ex-ambassador

After illegally carrying out land reclamation on Gac Ma (Johnson South) Reef in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago, China will continue similar work in other areas, as it is accelerating its exclusive occupation of the East Vietnam Sea, a Vietnamese ex-ambassador to the United Nations has warned.

An August 2013 exhibit showcases maps and artifacts proving Vietnam's indisputable sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracels) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos.
An August 2013 exhibit showcases maps and artifacts proving Vietnam’s indisputable sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracels) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos.

Vo Anh Tuan, former Vietnamese Ambassador to the United Nations and former head of Vietnam’s negotiation mission to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), recently commented on China’s illegal actions in the area.

“I am very concerned about the East Vietnam Sea situation. Following its land reclamation on Gac Ma, China will continue similar acts in other areas, causing disorder and unrest,” Tuan said.

He emphasized that the legitimate claims of Vietnam and other countries in South East Asia will continue to be violated by China in the future.

“Once they set up an air base on Gac Ma, China will likely set up an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East Vietnam Sea, similar to what it has done in the East China Sea,” Tuan said.

This means China would take naval and aerial control of the whole East Vietnam Sea, presenting Vietnam with more challenges in protecting its sovereignty over its seas and land.

At the same time, maritime and air safety and security in the area will also be threatened, he added.

After setting up a military base on Gac Ma, China will expand to other areas in order to realize and confirm its nine-dash line (also called the cow’s tongue line), which was first introduced in China in 1947. Beijing presented the plan to the United Nations in 2009 to illegally claim sovereignty over most of the East Vietnam Sea, Tuan said.

“I think that China has set out very concrete objectives to be achieved in the East Vietnam Sea. It has set up a roadmap to occupy the sea and is carrying out the plan step by step, regardless of the interest and aspirations of other countries in the area,” the ex-ambassador said.

China wants to open a new period in its relations with the rest of the world, Tuan said. “Previously, China wanted to be seen by the international community as a partner, but now China wants other countries to see it as a powerful country, and thus wants to behave based on its own rules.”

“Such a policy is very dangerous,” Tuan said. “China does not want others countries to deal with it as a partner, but wants to compel other nations to follow its own rules.”

Therefore, countries in the region, as well as around the world, should be highly vigilant over China’s actions in the East Vietnam Sea.

Countries should unite to deal with China’s attempts to exclusively take over the East Vietnam Sea, or they will be exposed to danger and pay a costly price, Tuan said.

In related news, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday strongly protested China’s recent land reclamation on Gac Ma reef, considering it a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty.

“Any unilateral actions by foreign countries to change the status quo on Truong Sa archipelago are a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Hai Binh said at a press conference held by the ministry in Hanoi the same day.

“These actions run counter to the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and raises tensions in the East Sea and the region”, Binh said.