Vietnamese Laws – National, world security closely linked: minister

National security is closely linked to that of the region and world, and Viet Nam stands ready to be a trustworthy friend and partner to countries in the international community, said the Minister of National Defence, Gen Phung Quang Thanh, at the Shangri-La Dialogue here on Sunday.

Viet Nam would work to further promote confidence-building and to develop friendly and co-operative relationships with countries in the region and world for peace, stability and development, Thanh said.

Attaching special attention to maritime security at this week’s dialogue, Thanh’s remarks were made under the theme of Responding to New Maritime Security Threats.

He said the situation in Viet Nam’s East Sea remained stable, but recent incidents have given cause for concern. The latest, on May 26, 2011, in which the Binh Minh 02, a Vietnamese ship conducting a normal oil and gas survey well within Viet Nam’s 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, was interrupted with its surveying cables cut, causing considerable concern for the maintenance of peace and stability in the East Sea and in the region.

After his speech, Thanh addressed additional questions at the forum and acknowledged that sovereignty disputes were ongoing in the East Sea between China, Viet Nam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Due to a lack of demarcation of the waters, regrettable incidents have sometimes occurred, he added.

In addition to the May 26 case, when Viet Nam conducted surveys in 2010 to complete its dossier on boundaries of the continental shelf for a report to the United Nations, Chinese vessels also cut Vietnamese ships’ survey cables.

In other cases, China has seized Vietnamese fishing boats and further obstructed Viet Nam from conducting oil and gas exploration in the East Sea within its exclusive economic zone, breaching international law and the Declaration on the Conducts of Parties in the East Sea, and raising concerns for Viet Nam and regional countries, Thanh stressed.

Thanh affirmed that Viet Nam consistently abides by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and guides its fishermen to fishing grounds in the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

However, while Vietnamese fishermen have sometimes violated the territorial waters of surrounding countries, fishermen of other countries have also violated Vietnamese waters, he said. Such cases should be solved in line with international law and in the spirit of neighbourly friendship, and there should be no violation of the bodies and property of fishermen.

Thanh emphasised the need for close co-operation among regional fisheries, joint patrols by countries’ naval forces and the establishment of a hotline to maintain maritime security and order, thus facilitating fishing activities.

He pointed out that every year, China issued orders to forbid fishing during breeding season to protect marine resources, but they attempted to enforce the ban in Vietnamese waters.

“Viet Nam does not agree with these actions and has voiced its opposition through diplomatic channels,” Thanh said.

He affirmed Vietnamese policy that bilateral disputes in the East Sea should be settled bilaterally and multilateral disputes should be addressed through multilateral negotiations.

He said the “nine-dotted” line in the East Sea announced by China was a multilateral dispute. The line had no legal basis whatsoever and ran counter to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, he said, adding that China should negotiate with related countries on the basis of international law and in the spirit of friendship, seeking fair and rational solutions acceptable to all parties in order to reach the goal of peace and development in the region.

Viet Nam planned to organise cultural and sports exchanges for the armed forces of Viet Nam and the Philippines stationed at Viet Nam’s Song Tu Tay Island and the Philippines-controlled Song Tu Dong (Northeast Cay) to build trust, strengthen friendship, ease tensions and prevent conflicts, he said.

During its term as ASEAN Chair, Indonesia had closely co-ordinated with other ASEAN member countries to maintain peace and stability in the East Sea, Thanh said, and at the fifth ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta last month, the ministers reached a consensus on the situation and put forth measures to maintain peace and stability.

In particular, in the joint statement of the meeting, the sides pledged to fully implement the DOC, working towards the conclusion of the Code of Conducts in the East Sea (COC) between ASEAN and China, he added.

Regarding a question as to why Taiwan hasn’t had an opportunity to join in the settlement of disputes in the East Sea, Thanh said this related to the “one-China” policy, as Taiwan was part of China ‘s territory. Taiwan and China needed to conduct discussions among themselves to choose a common representative.

Relating to Viet Nam’s purchase of submarines, Thanh said that the country had signed a contract to buy six Russian-built Kilo-class submarines, which would only be operated in Vietnamese waters – a normal activity being conducted in an open and transparent manner.

He said that Viet Nam was implementing two strategic tasks to build and defend the nation. Economic development was defined as the central task and ensuring defence and security to protect national independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity was an essential and regular task.

When the economy developed, Viet Nam would gradually modernise its army with priority to be given to the navy and air force and communications, he added.

“Viet Nam’s defence policy focuses on defence and does not targets any other country. Viet Nam never invades other countries’ territories,” he said.

Thanh lauded Chinese defence minister Liang Guanglie’s speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, saying that it clearly expressed China’s policy of peace and responsibility.

Viet Nam believed that when China, a socialist country, had peaceful development and friendly and cooperative ties in solidarity with neighbouring countries, it would be favourable for Viet Nam, the region and the world, he said.

He hoped China would do what it had said to the world.

Thanh and his delegation returned to Ha Noi on Sunday, concluding their trip to attend the 10th Shangri-La Dialogue.

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