Asia Revisiting Vietnam's efforts to resolve the South China Sea conflict

Revisiting Vietnam’s efforts to resolve the South China Sea conflict

Vietnam hopes the Shangri-La dialogue dissects the South China Sea conflict as it is one of the nations that has suffered a lot in the wake of China's rise in the hotly contested waters

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By Cordoba.Ali

As a coastal state and a jurisdictional party in the South China Sea, Vietnam has played an active role to solve the conflict based on international law and Vietnamese laws.

Over the years’s Vietnam has strived to cooperate with other countries in many fields, always upholding national security and the prosperity of the whole region.

In addition, at international conferences and forums such as the Shangri-La Dialogue, Vietnamese leaders have also come up with effective solutions to address the SCS issue.

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Former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s stated, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2013, that concrete measures were needed to build a strategic trust to avoid conflict in the disputed sea. Deputy Minister of Public Security Bui Van Nam formulated the same idea at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2017.

Vietnam’s views and efforts to resolve the South China Sea issue is recognised and well appreciated by other countries, especially in the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) and towards building a result-oriented, effective Code of Conduct (COC) in accordance with international law.

In an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post, Le Hong Hiep says the Southeast Asia bloc of nations and China are a step closer to forming a COC for the South China Sea, and for Vietnam it’s a chance to replace a disappointing and toothless diplomatic pact with real dispute management provisions.

He says the two sides agreed last August to the negotiating text that forms the basis of talks on the contentious subjects of a new COC. With this development came valuable insights into the positions of all negotiating parties, particularly Vietnam, which has long faced tensions in the South China Sea.

According to the writer, Vietnam has a long history of supporting the establishment of the DOC and subsequently the COC. He documented the timeline, starting from the 1990s with Vietnam submitting, along with the Philippines, a first draft code to the Asean bloc.

With the backdrop of differences between Asean and China, the Asean member states agreed to a watered down position and signed the 2002 Asean-China DOC.

But this time around, Vietnam wants a resolution of the dispute with a pact with teeth, not with more politics after years of dependence on a ‘toothless diplomatic pact that has failed to reduce tensions,’ says Le Hong Hiep.

The DOC, so dear to Vietnam, showed its limitations because of it is non binding and has a low level of enforcement. A series of incidents demonstrates this.

“The 2012 Scarborough Shoal stand-off between China and the Philippines; the 2014 oil rig crisis between China and Vietnam; and China’s construction and militarisation of seven artificial islands in the Spratly,” wrote Le Hong Hiep.

Vietnam suffered a lot in the face of China’s constant aggression in the seas to where Hanoi made demands for a “substantive and effective” code.

Since the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling in 2016, Vietnam has shifted its guns and is trying to reclaim the territories snatched from its jurisdiction by China.

For this, Vietnam wants the COC to bound all contracting states in full with no reservation. It also wants signatory states to ratify the code under their respective internal procedures.

It also says nothing should prevent other peaceful means of dispute settlement, including legal options.

The Asean-China joint working group on implementing the DOC met last week to look into the situation on the East Sea, review the implementation of the DOC and continue negotiations on the COC.

Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyễn Quốc Dũng expressed Vietnam’s concerns about complications in the East Sea caused by strategic competition among powers and unilateral actions that ran counter to international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

This concerns military actions, which have undermined trust, hindered the maintenance of peace and stability, and affected negotiations on the COC.

Vietnam also emphasised the East Sea was also facing other challenges such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing), pollution and plastic waste, reports Vietnamnews.

Nguyễn Quốc Dũng called on countries to uphold their sense of responsibility and join hands to implement the DOC, refrain from militarisation or making moves that could further complicate the situation, and promote co-operation to handle challenges, the portal says.

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