Nov 24, 2020 / 09:26

O’Brien visit to Vietnam, Philippines shows US commitment in South China Sea

The Hanoitimes - The US government is making its position on the South China Sea more strongly explicit.

US National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien has affirmed America's commitment to its allies and partners in ASEAN regarding the compliance of law during his visit to Vietnam and the Philippines.

 US National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien and Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi on November 21. Photo: VGP

“I think the different issues discussed in both countries -- the one issue that was common to both countries is a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, a commitment to sovereignty of the countries that are here in the Indo-Pacific, and especially those that border the South China Sea, and a commitment on behalf of America to support our allies in ASEAN and our friends and partners in the region. The commitment is we will stand behind them as they promote international law and the rule of law where it comes to the South China Sea,” O’Brien said in a teleconference Monday.

He said the fishing rights, the mineral rights, the oil and gas rights that are in the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the various ASEAN countries “belong to the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those countries.”

In Vietnam, O’Brien discussed with Vietnamese leaders future expansion of the US-Vietnam economic and security relationship to support a free, prosperous, and secure Vietnam and respect to sovereignty and common regional challenges.

In a speech delivered at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in Hanoi on November 22, O’Brien noted that “This region has no interest in returning to an imperial era in which “might makes right.”

He highlighted “From the South China Sea to the Mekong Riverine, the bounteous resources of your nation belong to your children and grandchildren. Their inheritance cannot be taken away simply because a neighbor is bigger and desires what is yours for itself.”

 US National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien and Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Photo: DPA

Both Vietnam and the Philippines have faced with Chinese militarization, harassment of their fishermen and oil and gas activities within their respective EEZs over the years.

Sean King, vice president of the Park Strategies political consultancy in New York, said O’Brien chose to visit Vietnam and the Philippines as Hanoi and Manila are the claimants to have ever really stood up to Beijing on the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Collin Koh, maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said “Most of us would agree it is a position that has implicitly been mentioned in the past, but now the US government is making it more strongly explicit in support of those claims.”

At the teleconference on Monday, O’Brien affirmed that the US has had those commitments whether they’ve been led by a Democrat or a Republican president.

Nguyen Thanh Trung, Center for International Studies director at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City, said the impetus for the O'Brien trip comes from the bipartisan policy on China and also on the South China Sea and it mainly comes from the Congress rather than from the (Trump) Administration.