Vietnam has asked all concerned parties to fulfill their legal obligations to maintain peace in the South China Sea.
“We expect countries to contribute positively and practically to maintaining peace and stability, carry out international legal obligations, and obey international laws on the seas and oceans,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said at a press briefing Thursday.
Hang was responding to questions regarding an incident when Chinese destroyer Luyang approached the USS Decatur, a U.S.’s guided-missile destroyer, as the latter passed within 12 nautical miles of the Gaven and Johnson reefs of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Sunday.
Vietnam calls the waters the East Sea.
The action made headlines on global media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and many Asian media channels like the Japan Times and South China Morning Post.
During the operation, the Chinese warship sailed within 45 yards (40 meters) of the USS Decatur as “it conducted freedom-of-navigation operations,” forcing the U.S. ship to “quickly maneuver to avoid collision,” Reuters reported, citing U.S. officials.
“Despite such reckless harassment, the United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand. We will not be intimidated. We will not stand down,” the report quoted U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as saying.
The close encounter gave the ship’s captains just seconds to react to any course change, said Carl Schuster, a former U.S. Navy captain, told the CNN.
“This was very dangerous. Captains get very nervous when ships get closer than 1,000 yards,” said Schuster, now a Hawaii Pacific University professor.
Gaven and Johnson are two reefs belonging to Vietnam’s Spratly Islands, which China has been occupying illegally.
Hang reiterated at the press conference that Vietnam has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands in accordance with international law. China seized the Paracels from South Vietnam by force in 1974.
Vietnam calls for peace, stability after close brush between Chinese, US warships”Vietnam respects the rights to freedom of navigation and overflight of other countries in the East Sea in accordance with international laws, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” she said.