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Vietnam eyes Philippine court case while weighing options on China row

Thursday, May 22, 2014, 17:11 GMT+7

TOKYO, May 22 - Vietnam is closely watching how the Philippines fares in an international court over its maritime territorial dispute with China, as Hanoi seeks to resolve peacefully its row with Beijing in the East Vietnam Sea, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said. In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Dam repeated Hanoi's demand that China withdraw a huge oil rig deployed by Chinese state oil company CNOOC 240 km (150 miles) off the coast of Vietnam in the Southeast Asian country's waters. But he said Vietnam was not setting a deadline for Beijing to meet its demand. "When we are committed to a dialogue, we do not raise the question of a deadline," said Dam, who was in Japan to attend a conference on the future of Asia. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told Reuters a day earlier that his government was considering various "defence options" against China, including legal action. "We would like to exhaust all diplomatic channels and dialogue with China. At the moment, dialogue is still going on," Dam said, reiterating Hanoi's stance that China's action violated both Vietnamese sovereignty and international law. In March, the Philippines, embroiled in a separate dispute with Beijing in the East Vietnam Sea, submitted a case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, challenging China's claims. It was the first time Beijing has been subjected to international legal scrutiny over the waters. "We respect the Philippines' decision to use the arbitration court as a peaceful means," Dam said, "We have followed this case very closely and would like to use all measures provided by international law to protect our legitimate interests." Dam also said Hanoi was committed to taking any steps needed to protect the interests of foreign investors and businesses after some anti-China's oil rig violent protests flared last week.

The Deputy Prime Minister said Hanoi was maintaining "normal trade relations" with China, but suggested Vietnam's economy could weather any fallout from the dispute.Living up to expectations

Dam, who was set to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later on Thursday, expressed thanks to Japan and other countries that have criticised China's actions. Abe is keen to loosen the limits of Japan's pacifist constitution on its military so that Tokyo can play a bigger global and regional security role. Dam reiterated that Vietnam would not engage in military alliances, but said Hanoi was keen to have aid from Japan and other countries to help manage its coastline and waters. After a meeting with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang in March, Abe announced that Japan would dispatch a survey mission to look into providing patrol vessels to Vietnam to further develop cooperation on maritime safety. "Vietnam has a long coastal line. So we are in the great need for equipment, facilities, so that we can better manage our coastlines. Therefore we'd like to seek assistance, not only from Japan, but also from other countries," Dam said. A Japanese government source said supplying patrol vessels would take time, although Japan as well as the United States would probably want to help Hanoi boost its maritime surveillance capabilities, largely to cope with pirates.

Reuters

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