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At regional meeting, Vietnamese FM says China’s actions in East Vietnam Sea ‘erode trust’

Thursday, August 01, 2019, 17:02 GMT+7
At regional meeting, Vietnamese FM says China’s actions in East Vietnam Sea ‘erode trust’
Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh attends the 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand July 31, 2019. Photo: Vietnam News Agency

Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh on Wednesday expressed his grave concern over Chinese vessels’ illegal movements in the East Vietnam Sea at a meeting in Thailand between foreign ministers of Southeast Asian nations and China.

While attending the ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in the framework of the 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM-52) in Bangkok, Minh stressed that the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escorts’ recent activities in the waters are a violation of Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf.

The Chinese vessels have, since July 3, blatantly disrupted and interfered with Vietnam’s economic activities through illegal actions in the areas near the Tu Chinh – Vung May (Vanguard Bank – Rifleman Bank) region in the East Vietnam Sea, according to updates on Twitter by Prof. Ryan Martison from the U.S. Naval War College.

Hanoi has made repeated demands that Beijing withdraw its ships from the Vietnamese waters.

Minh stressed to those in attendance at the meeting on Wednesday, in the presence of China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, that such actions seriously threaten the legitimate rights of coastal countries, erode trust, and worsen tension, thus hurting peace and stability in the Southeast Asian region.

More seriously, the actions follow on the heels of large-scale land reclamation activities and militarization of disputed maritime entities in the East Vietnam Sea.

Minh noted progress in negotiations for a code of conduct (COC) of parties in the East Vietnam Sea while reiterating ASEAN’s consistent stance on the importance of enhancing confidence, non-militarization, preventing actions that complicate the situation, and upholding international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in order to achieve an effective COC.

Highlighting the strategic significance of ASEAN-China relations, Minh affirmed that Vietnam will join hands with other ASEAN member states to promote the partnership and collaboration between the sides, especially in the fields of mutual interest.

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh (fourth left), Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (fifth left) and delegates pose for a family photo at the ASEAN-China ministerial meeting in Bangkok, Thailand July 31, 2019. Photo: Reuters

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh (fourth left), Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (fifth left) and delegates pose for a family photo at the ASEAN-China ministerial meeting in Bangkok, Thailand July 31, 2019. Photo: Reuters

In a joint communiqué issued the same day, ASEAN foreign ministers reaffirmed the need to avoid actions that may further complicate the situation in the East Vietnam Sea.

"We discussed the situation in the [East Vietnam] Sea during which concerns were expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations, activities, and serious incidents in the area which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region," the communiqué stated.

The ministers emphasized the necessity to uphold and comply with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Vietnam Sea, to reach an effective COC.

Meanwhile, China's Wang Yi on Wednesday warned outside countries not to amplify disputes in the East Vietnam Sea after meeting counterparts in the Thai capital, Reuters reported.

"We think non-regional countries should not deliberately amplify such differences or disputes left from the past," Wang was quoted as saying in response to a question on the involvement of the U.S. and other non-Asian countries in the discussions.

"Non-regional countries should also not make use of these differences to sow distrust between China and ASEAN countries," he said.

Wang is due to meet United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday on the sidelines of AMM-52.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, August 1, 2019. Photo: Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) shakes hands with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, August 1, 2019. Photo: Reuters

ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a ten-member socio-economic, political and security bloc that includes Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

The annual ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is responsible for political-security cooperation and external relations in ASEAN.

The 52nd AMM and related meetings are held from July 29 to August 3 in Bangkok, Thailand, which is the ASEAN chair for 2019.

The event is being attended by representatives from over 30 countries.

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