China’s recent acts in the East Sea have created three unexpected outcomes for Beijing: its playing card was unmasked, other countries have been awakened and the international community has heightened vigilance.
Several hours after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called for self-restraint and peaceful solutions for disputes in the East Sea, China immediately claimed sovereignty over disputed islands again. Beijing also sent vessels to the Fiery Cross Red Reefs and Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago. But a new hope has wakened up based on these old acts: the hope of awakening and being urged to take action.
On July 22, Chinese media blared the news that constituents on three islands that China calls Shansha city voted to elect the so-called Shansha People’s Council. In fact, these islands belong to Vietnam’s Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes. One month earlier, the authorities of Khanh Hoa and Danang cities objected China’s establishment of Shansha city, which is serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.
From imagination to reality
China’s move happened only one day after the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on July 20 that Beijing was willing to cooperate with ASEAN to implement the Declaration of the Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and to join ASEAN to complete the Code of Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (COC).
China signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS 1982) but China stated that UNCLOS is not an international convention to solve territorial sovereignty disputes of nations or a reference material for solving disputes.
China perversely invited tenders at nine oil blocks in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. This act is considered as an important sign in the change of Beijing’s maritime strategy. From virtual to real menace!
Before the Binh Minh case last year, China sporadically made provoking cases against oil and gas exploration activities in the disputed waters. Since the Binh Minh case and especially the recent bidding invitation, China has made a long step to threaten any country that is interested in oil blocks in Vietnam’s continental shelf.
From imagination to reality, China intends to make the world to be familiar to the “U-shaped line” in the East Sea, which was even protested by an international news editor of Xinhua Zhu Fang. In an article entitled “South China Sea (East Sea) situation may hold back China’s political reform,” this Chinese journalist emphasized: “In our infancy, we saw the South China Sea map. A crude dotted border line puts the entire the South China Sea into China’s map. Today, we know that it is not true. That border is not only recognized by neighboring countries and the international community but it is not explained by Chinese scholars”.
Ignoring that obvious fact, the reason and international laws that China signed, Beijing supports chauvinism allegations. The latest articles on China’s Global Times slandered Vietnam, turning Vietnamese fishermen who fished in their traditional fishing grounds into offences. These articles seriously offended the friendship between Vietnam and China.
Indonesia has recently proved to be a responsible member of ASEAN. With 36-hour shuttle diplomacy of Indonesian Foreign Minister Natalegawa, we see how it is important for ASEAN’s unity. ASEAN picked itself up after the fall in Phnom Penh. After the 45th ASEAN Foreign Ministerial Meeting, ASEAN was a ship after a big storm. But instead of seeking a shelter, ASEAN is hectically strengthening its crew to confront stronger winds.
ASEAN’s agreement over a common point of view on the East Sea has certain meanings. Firstly, the block has realized the seriousness of this issue. Secondly, if the block is paralyzed by an alternative chair, some of its basic principles may be or will be changed. It means that foreign ministers can release a joint communiqué when an alternative chair acts irresponsibly. No chair wants this to happen.
Thirdly, the “big director” changed the script because both the director and the main character were afraid that their script would be collapsed if ASEAN is pushed to break-up.
Vietnam played a positive role in efforts of healing. Vietnam’s viewpoint is consistent and it is highly appreciated by both ASEAN and the world community. The six principles suggested by the Indonesian Foreign Minister were the principles that Vietnam has been pursued for a very long time.
The Indonesian FM thanked his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh for Vietnam’s positive contribution after their meetings in Hanoi. The international community praised Vietnam’s point of view at the ASEAN Foreign Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh.
People’s opinion is decisive
In the new circumstance, during a recent meeting with Hanoi’s constituents, Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong pointed out the relations between defending national sovereignty and maintaining the regime and peaceful environment. He once again affirmed that we have to defend each inch of land of the country.
Speaking to HCM City’s voters, President Truong Tan Sang said that Vietnam’s consistent point of view is defending independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Speaking to the National Assembly, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung expressed his determination to defend the country’s waters and islands. The PM also welcomed the people’s expression of patriotism, especially in defending island and marine sovereignty.
China’s recent acts have created three unexpected outcomes for China: its plot was unmasked, other nations have been awakened and the international community has heightened vigilance.
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