Meeting at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) on June 5, delegates examined challenges to maritime security in East Asia, especially mounting tensions in the East and East China Seas that might cause conflicts in the region.
They also underlined the need to build confidence and strengthen maritime security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
A representative of the Vietnamese Embassy updated the delegates on major developments in the East Sea and Vietnam’s initial steps towards settling the territorial dispute after China illegally stationed its drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 deep inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, and dispatched vessels, including warships, to intimidate and attack Vietnamese law enforcement boats.
The scholars expressed their deep concern about China’s unilateral action against international law in the East Sea, which they said is threatening security and safety of international navigation.
Professor Geoffrey Till from Defence Studies Department at King’s College London said China failed to respect and fully observe the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), that could lead to potential conflicts.
The delegates discussed China’s provocative actions in the East Sea, as well as their impact on security and stability in East Asia which has been the centrepiece of the world public for more than a month.
Professor Stein Tonnesson from the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and other delegates shared the view that China should respect international law.
They called on China and other parties concerned to develop an effective mechanism for controlling potential conflicts in the East Sea and to sit at the negotiating table to handle disputes peacefully.
Support for Vietnam’s legal action
At a recent interview granted to Vietnam Television, European scholars supported Vietnam’s use of legal actions against China in accordance with international law.
Professor Bernard Insel from University of Brussels noted that the position where China is placing its oil rig is clearly inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.
According to the professor, the issue is more complicated when China claims sovereignty in the rig area of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago that China used force to occupy illegally in 1974.
Professor Eric David from the Free University of Brussels stated that China’s actions are provocative, because it is aware that the waters where the oil rig is standing are part of Vietnamese territory.
Vietnam has the right to say that the Chinese move threatens its sovereignty, as well as global peace and security.
Besides Vietnam, he said the Philippines is also engaged in a similar territorial dispute with China, and the country has decided to bring China to the international arbitration court in the Hague.
Lawyer Eric Van Hooydong, an international legal expert, said if bilateral or multilateral negotiations collapse, Vietnam could sue China in the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany.
Vietnam should also seek another solution through arbitration mechanism, he suggested.