The European Union (EU) on Wednesday warned that a deteriorating maritime security environment caused by recent “unilateral actions” in the East Vietnam Sea represents a serious threat to the region’s economic growth.
“Unilateral actions during the past weeks in the [East Vietnam Sea] have resulted in mounting tensions and a deterioration of the maritime security environment which represents a serious threat to the peaceful economic development of the region,” EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy Maja Kocijancic was quoted as saying in a statement posted on the European External Action Service’s website.
The statement came amid repeated infringing activities of a Chinese marine research vessel escorted by coast guard ships in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf since July.
Kocijancic said all parties in the region must “exercise self-restraint, take concrete steps towards reverting to the status quo ante, refrain from militarizing the region and resolve disputes through peaceful means.''
Such actions must be done in accordance with international law, notably the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), she added.
The spokesperson proposed that the sides seek third-party assistance “in the form of mediation or arbitration” to facilitate the settlement of their respective claims if necessary.
“The EU will continue to fully support regional ASEAN-led processes, in order to further promote a rules-based regional and international order, to consolidate multilateral cooperation, as well as closer cooperation with third parties,” spokesperson Kocijancic continued.
ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a political and socio-economic bloc consisting of ten member states, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
|The Vietnamese foreign ministry's spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang at a press briefing in Hanoi on June 6, 2019. Photo: Nhat Dang / Tuoi Tre|
Spokesperson Kocijancic said the EU is looking forward to a swift and transparent conclusion of the talks on an “effective, substantive and legally binding” Code of Conduct (COC) of parties in the East Vietnam Sea.
“The EU is committed to the legal order for the seas and oceans based upon international law, maritime security and cooperation, as well as the freedom of navigation and overflight, in the interest of all states,” the statement concluded.
The Vietnamese foreign ministry’s spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said on August 16 the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escorts had resumed their infringement of Vietnam’s EEZ and Continental Shelf from August 13.
The Chinese fleet had previously violated Vietnam’s EEZ and Continental Shelf in the southern area of the East Vietnam Sea from July 4 to August 8.
“This area lies entirely within the Vietnamese waters,” Hang said, underlining that Hanoi has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the waters in the East Vietnam Sea, as established in the provisions of the 1982 UNCLOS.
|Japan’s oil rig Hakuryu-5, which is in operation in the East Vietnam Sea. Photo: PetroVietnam|
The EU spokesperson’s statement came a day after Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Kono said Tokyo also opposes any action that intensifies tensions in the East Vietnam Sea, according to Vietnam News Agency.
Kono said on Tuesday that the East Vietnam Sea is an important sea line for Japan and many other countries, and is directly related to stability and peace of the region.
He added that the international community, including Japan, is paying serious attention to the situation in the sea.
The foreign minister said he has raised concerns about the serious situation in the East Vietnam Sea after the recent East Asian Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand in early August.
FM Kono held that the international community should oppose any unilateral attempt to change the status quo, or any serious action with coercion by any country.
The top Japanese diplomat asked all the parties concerned to demilitarize facilities or institutions in the sea, stressing that any dispute must be solved according to international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
The countries should continue to emphasize the need to uphold the rule of law in the East Vietnam Sea, he stated.