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World powers voice concerns over South China Sea as Beijing bullies Vietnam

Updated at Tuesday, 03 Sep 2019, 13:13
The Hanoitimes - The US, India, the UK, Germany, France, Australia, among others have expressed concerns over China`s bullying tactics.
Big countries namely the US, the UK, Germany, France, India, and some Southeast Asian countries have voiced concerns over the latest movements in the South China Sea in which China intruded into Vietnamese territorial waters. 

The US, with different agencies in the Trump administration, has been keeping an eye on the situation and released statements protesting China’s aggression. 

The US

 
US President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton. Photo: National Review
US President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton. Photo: National Review

The US latest move was made on August 26 when the Department of Defense said it is greatly concerned by China’s coercive interference in Vietnam’s longstanding oil and gas activities in the South China Sea (SCS).

“China’s actions stand in contrast to the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms,” the Pentagon said in a statement released on August 26.

On July 20, the US Department of State expressed its concern by reports of China’s harassment of Vietnam’s longstanding exploration and production activities. On August 22, it stated that China’s actions undermine regional peace and security, impose economic costs on Southeast Asian states by blocking their access to an estimated $2.5 trillion in unexploited hydrocarbon resources.

 
US Department of State's Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. Photo: State Department
US Department of State's Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. Photo: State Department

In late July, Eliot L. Engel, chairman of the US’s House Committee on Foreign Affairs, called on China to “immediately withdraw” all ships from the territorial waters of Vietnam and stop bullying its neighbors.

On August 20, President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted: “China’s recent escalation of efforts to intimidate others out of developing resources in the South China Sea is disturbing. The United States stands firmly with those who oppose coercive behavior and bullying tactics which threaten regional peace and security.”

On August 18, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force General David L. Goldfein and Pacific Air Forces Commander (PACAF) General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. affirmed in Hanoi that the US policies stress the free and open Indo-Pacific and the importance of ensuring the operations of ships and aircraft in the whole region based on international law.

“We always support Vietnam’s right to self-defense and defense, we will monitor the activities of the Vietnamese government to be ready to cooperate with you,” General David Goldfein said at a roundtable with local reporters in Hanoi on August 18.

India

 
Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar of Indian Ministry of External Affairs. Photo: Aninews
Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar of Indian Ministry of External Affairs. Photo: Aninews

On August 29, Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar of Indian Ministry of External Affairs said “South China Sea is part of the global commons. India, therefore, has an abiding interest in the peace and stability in the region. India firmly stands for the freedom of navigation and over-flight, and unimpeded lawful commerce in the international waters in accordance with international laws, notably UNCLOS (UN Convention for the Law of the Sea).”

The deployment of the Chinese survey vessel is close to Vietnamese waters where Indian state-owned ONGC Videsh is engaged in oil and gas production.

In addition, almost 55 % of India’s trade is through this region.

The EU

 
Maja Kocijancic, the EU’s Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. Photo: CNA
Maja Kocijancic, the EU’s Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. Photo: CNA

On August 27, the EU issued a statement expressing concern about the South China Sea mounting tensions, saying that The EU is committed to maritime security and cooperation, as well as the freedom of navigation and overflight, in the interest of all states. 

“The parties could also seek third party assistance in the form of mediation or arbitration to facilitate the settlement of their respective claims, if deemed useful,” according to a statement released by the spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.  

EU Three (E3)

 
Heads of the UK, France, and Germany. Photo:Anadolu Agency
Leaders of E3: British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Anadolu Agency

EU Three including the UK, Germany, and France on August 29 released a joint statement expressing concerns over the South China Sea situation.

“We are concerned about the situation in the South China Sea which could lead to insecurity and instability in the region,” according to the statement.

“As State parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), France, Germany, and the UK underline their interest in the universal application of the Convention which sets out the comprehensive legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas including in the South China Sea must be carried out and which provides the basis for national, regional and global co-operation in the maritime domain. They recall in this regard the Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS on 12 July 2016,” said the statement.

Australia 

 
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi. Photo: VGP
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi. Photo: VGP

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during its visit to Hanoi on August 22-24 show concern about land reclamation and militarization of disputed features in the sea. 

The concerns are also in relation to long-standing oil and gas projects.

In a joint statement released during the visit, the Australian PM emphasized the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, compliance with international law and maintaining a rules-based order.

Malaysia 

 
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi. Photo: AP
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi. Photo: AP

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said during his three-day visit to Vietnam on August 26-28 expressed “serious concern over recent developments in the South China Sea” after Beijing intensified expansionism challenging their energy assets and sea boundaries in the region.

In their statement, Malaysia and Vietnam also emphasized “the importance of self-restraint, non-militarization” and “avoidance of activities that may escalate tensions.”

The statement was released in the context that Chinese survey vessels extended its activities to an area closer to Vietnam’s coastline at the weekend and the Chinese coast guard tracked around an oil rig on Malaysia’s continental shelf, BenarNews reported.

Context 

The big countries voiced concerns in the context that Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and escorts intruded into Vietnamese exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf in the South China Sea. The ships first encroached on Vietnam’s territorial waters in early July until August 7 then returned to the sea on August 13.

Bloomberg reported that Spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “The South China Sea has important implications for countries inside and outside the region in terms of economy, security, safety, freedom of aviation and navigation.” 

“Vietnam welcomes and is willing to join other nations and the international community” to maintain peace, stability and security in the region, she added.
Linh Pham
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