Việt Nam asks China to cease militarisation in South China Sea, reasserts sovereignty over islands

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Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Phạm Thu Hằng. — Photo from the ministry

HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam on Thursday asked China to end its militarisation in the South China Sea in violation of Việt Nam’s territories and to refrain from escalating tensions.

Phạm Thu Hằng, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Việt Nam, made the remarks during a regular press briefing, in response to a question over US reports of China having fully militarised at least three of several islands it built on Việt Nam’s Trường Sa (Spratly) Islands in the South China Sea (known in Việt Nam as the East Sea).

“The strengthening of militarisation of a number of entities as part of the Spratly Islands not only violates Việt Nam’s sovereignty over this island, but also causes serious concerns for countries in the region and the international community, as reflected in ASEAN’s documents,” Hằng stated, adding that this is not conducive to the maintenance of peace, stability, and development in the South China Sea.

“Việt Nam has full legal grounds and historical evidence to assert sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel islands, and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the waters in accordance with international laws and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Hằng emphasised.

Việt Nam asks China to respect Việt Nam’s sovereignty, cease all militarisation actions and refrain from actions that could escalate tensions in the region, maintain favourable conditions for the continued joint efforts with ASEAN to conclude the negotiations towards a substantive and effective Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in line with international laws and 1982 UNCLOS at the earliest time, she stated.

The US news agency Associated Press in late March cited US Indo-Pacific commander, Adm. John C. Aquilino, saying that China has outfitted the islands with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment, along with fleets of fighter jets, adding that this “buildup of weaponisation is destabilising to the region.”

Aquilino said the construction of missile arsenals, aircraft hangars, radar systems and other military facilities on Mischief Reef (known as Đá Vành Khăn in Việt Nam), Subi Reef (Đá Subi), and Fiery Cross (Đá Chữ Thập) – three among the seven entities that Việt Nam claims sovereignty of but are currently under Chinese occupation – appear to have been completed.

Reporters also asked for Việt Nam’s response to a comment from retired Filipino Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, who said that the country should hold joint patrols in the South China Sea with Việt Nam, the US, and some countries in the region, as a way to compel China to adhere to ground rules in Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground shared between the three countries.

In response, Hằng again reiterated Việt Nam’s stance of wishing to cooperate with other countries and contribute to peace, stability, safety, cooperation, and development in the South China Sea, based on international laws and 1982 UNCLOS, for common interests and in line with the aspirations of the countries in the region and the international community.

“With that in mind, over the years, Việt Nam has participated in joint patrols with countries in the region, such as Cambodia, Thailand, and China, and carried out international cooperation in scientific research, environmental protection, maritime crime prevention, and other economic activities,” Hằng noted.

Border exchange

Asked about the upcoming Việt Nam-China border defence friendship exchange slated to be held in late April this year, the deputy spokesperson said the exchange activities at all levels and sectors and localities between Việt Nam and China have been regularly maintained under a variety of formats.

The border defence friendship exchange is a regular annual activity held by the two countries’ ministries of national defence and border guard forces, she noted.

The event is expected to include a wide range of activities aimed at increasing mutual understanding and mutual trust, as well as enhancing the effectiveness of the coordination on border management and protection between the two border guard forces in particular and between the two armies in general, Hằng said.

“The event aims at promoting friendship and cooperation between localities and peoples of the border region, as well as the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between Việt Nam and China, and also contributes to the building of a borderline of peace, stability, friendship, cooperation, and development between Việt Nam and China,” the deputy spokesperson stressed. — VNS

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