"In addition to peaceful measures, ‘fists’ should also be prepared for sovereignty protection,” Rear Admiral Do Xuan Cong, former Commander of the Vietnam People's Navy, has said.
The Rear Admiral made assertion in an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper published by the daily on Monday, January 19, on which 41 years ago China used force to illegally occupy Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago in the East Vietnam Sea.
“When another person disregards reason and law and attacks and violates our sacred sovereignty, we have to take action, in which ‘fists’ should be prepared, as we cannot keep struggling verbally all the time,” Rear Admiral Cong said.
He made the statement when recounting China’s perverse violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Vietnam Sea, including the illegal placement of the Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil drilling platform in Vietnamese waters from early May to July 16, 2014.
When asked about China’s possible schemes in 2015, the former naval commander said, “I think that in 2015 and the following years, China will continue to plant its drilling rigs in deep waters in the East Vietnam Sea. Such rigs may not be positioned well within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, but it may be deployed outside the zone and then gradually encroach on it.”
China has announced the cow’s tongue line to lay claim to most of the East Vietnam Sea, but it knows such a claim is unreasonable, Rear Admiral Cong said.
Beijing is therefore turning its tactic into one in which they will claim sovereignty over each small cluster of islands and waters interposed between islands controlled by Vietnam and the Philippines, he added.
Rear Admiral Do Xuan Cong, former Vietnam People's Navy Commander Photo: Tuoi Tre
“China may also issue perverse regulations on banning vessels from traveling or fishing near a number of islands or even announce its sovereignty over the waters surrounding those islands.
“Through such actions, China can step by step limit the maritime activities of countries in the East Vietnam Sea, especially Vietnam,” he said.
Regarding how to cope with such a situation, Rear Admiral Cong said Vietnam must use diplomatic channels and peaceful measures to prevent the illegal Chinese schemes to occupy seas and islands or expand those Beijing has already occupied. “Justice is on our side and we love peace, so our international friends and the world community will certainly support us. The case of China’s illegal deployment of the Haiyang Shiyou 981 drilling rig proved the important role of international support for Vietnam,” he said, referring to international pressure on Beijing before it withdrew the rig from the Vietnamese waters.
The voice of Vietnamese people is no less important than international support, the naval official said.
“I highly appreciated the strong but peaceful reactions of the public against China’s illicit deployment of its oil rig,” Rear Admiral Cong commented. “However, a few extremist actions in these reactions should be eliminated….” he said, adding that all peaceful struggles are based on international law.
By mentioning “a few extremist actions,” the former commander was touching again on riots that broke out in some Vietnamese localities following the positioning of the Haiyang Shiyou 981 in the Vietnamese seas. “But once China disregards law, moral principles and sentimental attachment, and actively causes conflicts, we will have no other choice than to confront such conflicts…,” Rear Admiral Cong insisted.
This file photo shows Vietnamese naval officers looking at maps proving Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago at a museum in Da Nang on April 29, 2013. Photo: Tuoi Tre
In respect to Vietnam’s preparations for such a confrontation, if any, the official said the nation should firstly continue to build a national defense involving the entire people and set up people security networks, including one at sea.
“Each fisherman is an eye contributing to the protection of sovereignty,” he said.
Vietnam has defeated many enemies that were much stronger than it, thanks to applying people’s wars against them, the rear admiral said, adding that this is a strength that the country should bring into play, even in time of peace.
Secondly, the Vietnamese navy must be built into an advanced force to become one of the key forces to safeguard the country’s seas and islands.
“There must be ‘fists’ for use in self-protection when necessary. Territorial sovereignty is sacred and cannot be taken away. ‘Fists’ in a military form should be prepared now,” Vice Admiral Cong said.
With the same view, lawyer Le Minh Phieu, one of the founders of the Foundation for East Vietnam Sea Studies, said Vietnam should be better prepared politically, militarily and diplomatically in 2015 than in the past in anticipation of incidents that are similar to the illegal deployment the Haiyang Shiyou 981.
Phieu suggested that concrete measures should be taken to cope with an infringement of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.
“What international court will Vietnam file a lawsuit against in case of such a violation? What legal dossiers do we need to prepare? In what cases should we capture an encroaching vessel? And what means and procedures are needed for such a capture?” the lawyer said.