Hanoi on a dan­ger­ous course Ag­gres­sive ac­tions in Chi­nese wa­ters are in vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law, dam­ag­ing re­la­tions and threat­en­ing re­gional sta­bil­ity

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

In re­cent days, the Viet­namese au­thor­i­ties have dis­patched a large num­ber of ves­sels, in­clud­ing some naval ves­sels, to the wa­ters off Zhongjian Is­land, forcibly dis­turb­ing the nor­mal drilling op­er­a­tions of a Chi­nese oil rig and ram­ming China’s civil­ian es­cort ships.

Such provoca­tive ac­tions not only pose a se­ri­ous threat to the safety of theChi­nese drilling rig and the lives of those work­ing on it, but also in­fringe upon the rights ofChina’s govern­ment ves­sels car­ry­ing out mar­itime law-en­force­ment tasks in the sea ar­eas un­der­China’s ju­ris­dic­tion.

It is true that there is a ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute be­tween China and Viet­nam over some is­lands and reefs of the Nan­sha Is­lands, but there is not any dis­pute be­tween the two coun­tries over the Xisha Is­lands, in which Zhongjian Is­land is in­cluded.

It is also true that de­lim­i­ta­tion is yet to be done for the wa­ters be­tween China’s Xisha Is­lands and Viet­nam’s coast­line.

How­ever, the drilling oper­a­tion by the Chi­nese com­pany is only 17 miles away from the Zhongjian Is­land, yet 150 miles from the Viet­namese coast­line. The lo­ca­tion ob­vi­ously falls within China’s off­shore wa­ters, notwith­stand­ing the lack of an of­fi­cial de­lim­i­ta­tion be­tween China and Viet­nam in this area. There is not any pos­si­bil­ity of over­lap­ping claims be­tween the two coun­tries.

Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 56 and Ar­ti­cle 60 of theUnit­edNa­tions Con­ven­tion on the La­wof the Sea, China has exclusive sov­er­eign rights to ex­plore, ex­ploit, con­serve and man­age re­sources within the wa­ters off the Xisha Is­lands. It also owns exclusive ju­ris­dic­tion over the con­struc­tion and use of all in­stal­la­tions and struc­tures op­er­at­ing in these wa­ters, in­clud­ing oil rigs.

It is clear by us­ing the ex­cuse that mar­itime de­lim­i­ta­tion has not been done, Hanoi has cho­sen to view the whole sea be­tween China and Viet­nam as dis­putable sea ar­eas and sent a flotilla of ships to dis­turb the nor­mal off­shore drilling op­er­a­tions of the Chi­nese com­pany. Viet­nam’s ac­tiv­i­ties, a vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional prac­tices, have also set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent for a coun­try to brazenly in­ter­rupt an­other coun­try’s nor­mal mar­itime op­er­a­tions in wa­ters un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of an­other, which is ob­vi­ously in breach of UNCLOS.

The ac­tions of the Viet­namese au­thor­i­ties are a se­ri­ous provo­ca­tion. The ha­rass­ment by Viet­namese ships of the Chi­nese oil rig op­er­at­ing nor­mally within the wa­ters un­der China’s ju­ris­dic­tion in­fringes upon China’s exclusive sov­er­eign rights and ju­ris­dic­tion over the nat­u­ral re­sources within wa­ters un­der China’s ju­ris­dic­tion. Viet­nam should be held ac­count­able for the con­se­quences of its ac­tions, which are in vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law, and China cer­tainly has the right to take coun­ter­mea­sures in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law.

The Con­ven­tion for the Sup­pres­sion of Un­law­ful Acts against the Safety ofMar­itime Nav­i­ga­tion and the Pro­to­col for the Sup­pres­sion of Un­law­ful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Plat­forms Lo­cated on the Con­ti­nen­tal Shelf, two documents passed by the In­ter­na­tion­alMar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion in 1988, for­mally came into ef­fect onMarch 1, 1992. China and Viet­nam have both rat­i­fied and are party to these two in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions. As stip­u­lated by the two documents, China has le­git­i­mate rights to ex­er­cise its ju­ris­dic­tion and im­pose some sanc­tions, against any coun­try whose ac­tiv­i­ties en­dan­ger the safety of nav­i­ga­tion and its fixed plat­forms on its con­ti­nen­tal shelf.

By mo­bi­liz­ing armed ves­sels to ram Chi­nese ships in wa­ters only 17 miles away from China’s Zhongjian Is­land, Viet­nam has made clear its in­ten­tion of pro­vok­ing a head-on clash with China and ex­ert­ing pres­sure on China. With such reck­less and risk-tak­ing be­hav­ior, Viet­nam has turned a blind eye to the over­all pic­ture of Sino-Viet­namese re­la­tions and ig­nored the on­go­ing ef­forts made by both coun­tries to cre­ate a good at­mos­phere and en­vi­ron­ment for all-round co­op­er­a­tion, and se­ri­ously jeop­ar­dized bi­lat­eral mu­tual trust.

The Viet­namese at­tempt to force China into giv­ing up its le­git­i­mate rights and in­ter­ests by es­ca­lat­ing re­gional ten­sion is both dan­ger­ous and fu­tile. On the con­trary, Hanoi will put it­self in a dilemma that it can­not han­dle. The au­thor is a Bei­jing-based ex­pert on in­ter­na­tional stud­ies.

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