Hindu Vivek Kendra
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China trying to turn non-disputed waters into disputed waters: Vietnam

Author: Indrani Bagchi
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 30, 2019
URL:      https://m.timesofindia.com/india/china-trying-to-transform-non-disputed-waters-into-disputed-waters/amp_articleshow/71364069.cms?__twitter_impression=true

Hidden in the shadow of India’s Kashmir gambit and Pakistan’s nuclear rhetoric, China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea off Vietnam’s coast has largely gone unnoticed. But it has raised red flags within the Indian system and found mention in the first meeting of the Quad foreign ministers in New York this week. Speaking to journalists in his first press conference, foreign minister S Jaishankar said India was working with Vietnam, while the MEA has twice signaled India’s support of Vietnam’s position.

Speaking exclusively to TOI, Vietnam’s ambassador, Pham Sanh Chau said China is trying to “transform non-disputed waters into disputed waters.” Promising to protect Vietnam’s interests, the envoy said, “we will use all peaceful means defined by international law to protect our legitimate interests. We do it in a very resolute and resilient manner. We do not exclude any measures in order to protect our legitimate interests.”

Pham Sanh Chau said, “We’re facing one of the most serious crises in the South China Sea for the past eight years. In 2011, China came into our waters and cut our cable. Then in 2014, China placed a huge drilling platform in our waters. In 2019, China sent their survey ship (Haiyang Dizhi 8) into our waters. This time, however, Chinese ships came in, got out, came in again, got out and came in again — as if these are their waters for them to come and go as they please.”

Pham Sanh Chau added that the situation has been aggravated by the fact that “this time they sent a huge fleet of accompanying ships including Chinese Coast Guard, militia and fishing boats, some using water cannons.”

The Chinese ships came “too close to the ongoing oil exploration by ONGC, Rosneft and Petrovietnam. Since July 3, Chinese ships have conducted 129 surveys.” The gas block has been in operation since 1988 and “giving dividends” since 2002.

Vietnam forces, he said, regularly push the Chinese boats back beyond their waters but they keep returning. The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reported that Chinese Coast Guard have been maintaining a continued presence “around several symbolically important features in the South China Sea: Luconia Shoals, Second Thomas Shoal, and Scarborough Shoal.”

“The dangerous thing is, they have been able to have one militarised built up an artificial island close by. So they don’t need to go back to mainland China or Hainan Island. It’s very convenient for them

"In the past five years, many countries have raised their voice against the militarisation of the islands in the South China Sea, artificial build-up. They had predicted this kind of thing would happen. And it is happening.”

The Vietnamese envoy pointed out that China’s actions not only come on their 70th anniversary, but they also coincide with the third anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling on the South China Sea. “They rejected the legitimacy of the 9-dash line. They also said these islands are too small to have an EEZ or continental shelf, they’re just uninhabited rock. Then you claim it’s a livable island. Those islands are disputed between six parties. We follow the principle of ‘land dominates sea’. China has no land there. The closest is 860 miles away. It’s a huge challenge to international law.”
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