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Feb 16, 2019 / 20:51

Vietnam reiterates respect to freedom of maritime navigation as US warships sail past Spratlys

Vietnam insists on free maritime navigation as long as other countries follow international law and maintain the peace and stability in the region.

Spokeswoman of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang on February 15 said that the country insists on the freedom of maritime and air navigation in the South China Sea in accordance with international conventions, especially the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982. 
Image of US warships sail in Spratlys. Photo: US Military News & Videos
Image of US warships sail in the South China Sea. Photo: US Military News & Videos
Vietnam requests other countries to follow international law and maintain the peace and stability in the region, Hang said in response to media requests after two US guided-missile destroyers patrolled near Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly Islands) on February 11.

The guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble passed “within 12 nautical miles” of the Spratly Islands while conducting “freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS),” US Pacific Fleet said in a statement.

The FONOPS were conducted “in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” the statement said.

The US navy did not specifically identify what features the destroyers sailed past, but Reuters reported the ships had steamed near Mischief Reef, which is the largest artificial island created by China in the archipelago.

Mischief Reef is within Vietnam’s Truong Sa islands. China has built military outposts throughout the South China Sea’s islands, including Vietnam’s Truong Sa and Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands).

The US has not taken side in these sovereignty disputes but has been unwavering in its assertions that international maritime law allows ships to sail near these sites.

The South China Sea is a major shipping route, with an estimated US$3 trillion worth of goods passing over the waters each year.