Vietnam respects navigation freedom conferred by international laws, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Thursday.
She said at a press conference that Vietnam’s position on freedom of navigation in the East Sea, internationally known as South China Sea, has been consistent.
“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.
Hang also reiterated that Vietnam has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Paracel (Hoang Sa) and Spratly (Truong Sa) Islands in accordance with international laws. She called for other countries to contribute “practically and responsibly” to the maintenance of order, peace and the rule of law in the East Sea.
Hang was responding to questions regarding recent activities by the British and Japanese navies in the waters.
The British Royal Navy’s amphibious warship HMS Albion sailed close to the Paracel Islands on its way to Saigon Port in Ho Chi Minh City for a visit on September 3, as part of a freedome of navigation operation to challenge China’s “excessive claims” in the South China Sea, Reuters reported.
China seized the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam by force in 1974, and has since been illegally occupying the archipelago. Its claims virtually the entire waterway, including waters close to Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s submarine JS Kuroshio also took part in a naval drill in the South China Sea last week, before docking at Cam Ranh Port in central Vietnam on Monday for a four-day visit.
This marked the first time a Japanese submarine has taken part in a drill in the waters, and is part of the Japanese fleet’s month-long trip to other Asian countries such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
“Japan is responding to Chinese assertiveness by pushing back,” Carl Thayer, an Australia-based longtime analyst of regional security, told VnExpress International in an email.
He said all maritime powers have a national interest in the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight over the high seas, and the sea lanes that pass through the South China Sea are vital to sustain the global economy. Some $3 trillion of ship-borne trade passes the waters each year.
“The Japanese submarine is an important demonstration of naval power and adds risk and uncertainty to China’s military posture in the South China Sea,” he said.