Cease provoca­tive ac­tiv­i­ties in Chi­nese wa­ters

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

Re­la­tions be­tween China and Viet­nam have un­der­gone a sub­tle change fol­low­ing a se­ries of provoca­tive ac­tiv­i­ties byHanoi in­tended to dis­turb the nor­mal drilling op­er­a­tions of a Chi­nese oil rig in the wa­ters off China’s Xisha Is­lands, also known as the Para­cel Is­lands.

When the oil rig, orHaiyang Shiyou 981, owned by China Na­tional Off­shore Oil Cor­po­ra­tion, com­menced op­er­at­ing in ear­lyMay, the Chi­naMar­itime Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued a no­tice, de­mand­ing ves­sels avoid pass­ing within a three­mile ra­dius around the drilling site to en­sure safety. In dis­re­gard of this no­tice, the Viet­namese au­thor­i­ties dis­patched a large num­ber of ves­sels, in­clud­ing armed ones, close to the site, and they have rammed China’s civil­ian ships and dis­turbed the nor­mal op­er­a­tions of the Chi­nese drilling plat­form.

The Viet­namese au­thor­i­ties also filed a protest, ac­cus­ing the drilling oper­a­tion of fall­ing within “dis­putable wa­ters” and vi­o­lat­ing the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the La­wof the Sea and the Dec­la­ra­tion on the Con­duct of Par­ties in the South China Sea. Hanoi has made use of the so-called “col­li­sion in­ci­dent” in the South China Sea in­cited by the me­dia, to de­scribe it­self a vic­tim bul­lied by China.

The Chi­nese oil rig is op­er­at­ing 17 miles away from Zhongjian Is­land, which be­longs to China’s Xisha Is­lands, this is 150 miles away from Viet­nam’s coast­line. It is self-ev­i­dent that the site falls into China’s off­shore wa­ters and that the drilling op­er­a­tions are com­pletely within the range of the coun­try’s sovereignty, sov­er­eign rights and ju­ris­dic­tion and have noth­ing to do with Viet­nam.

The Xisha Is­lands are a part of China’s in­her­ent ter­ri­tory and the drilling of the Chi­nese en­ter­prise in its off­shore wa­ters is an in­ter­nal af­fair that should be free from any out­side in­ter­fer­ence. The nor­mal and le­git­i­mate drilling op­er­a­tions in wa­ters un­der China’s ju­ris­dic­tion is in com­pli­ance with the UN Con­ven­tion on the La­wof the Sea and any­thing but a vi­o­la­tion of the Dec­la­ra­tion on the Con­duct of Par­ties in the South China Sea as claimed by Viet­nam. Facts prove that it is Viet­nam, not China, who in­sti­gated the re­cent ten­sions in the South China Sea.

In the face of provoca­tive ac­tiv­i­ties from Viet­nam, China has had to re­in­force se­cu­rity pre­cau­tions on the site to en­sure the safety of those on the oil rig and the safety of op­er­at­ing equip­ment. To main­tain China’s nor­mal mar­itime op­er­a­tions and en­sure the safety of its op­er­at­ing ves­sels, equip­ment, per­son­nel and nav­i­ga­tion, it is jus­ti­fied for Chi­nese ves­sels to fend off bump­ing Viet­namese ves­sels.

China has main­tained the ut­most re­straint in the face of Viet­namese provo­ca­tions to avoid the tense sit­u­a­tion es­ca­lat­ing. In re­sponse to the provo­ca­tions, China has only used civil­ian ves­sels and cho­sen a diplo­matic chan­nel for com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Viet­namese, ask­ingHanoi to re­spect China’s le­git­i­mate rights and in­ter­ests and im­me­di­ately stop its provoca­tive ac­tiv­i­ties.

How­ever, such re­straint has failed to gain re­spect. In­stead, Viet­nam has re­sponded by in­creas­ing its ves­sels at the scene and has even mo­bi­lized some armed ships and frog­men. They have even put up a lot of fish­ing nets and bar­ri­cades in the rel­e­vant wa­ters, not only se­ri­ously threat­en­ing the safety of China’s ves­sels, drilling equip­ment and per­son­nel, but also se­ri­ously en­dan­ger­ing nor­mal nav­i­ga­tion safety.

These provoca­tive ac­tiv­i­ties have not only se­ri­ously in­fringed upon China’s sovereignty, sov­er­eign rights and right of ju­ris­dic­tion, they will also prob­a­bly cause se­ri­ous dam­age to the Sino-Viet­namese re­la­tions that were other­wise on the track of en­hanc­ing strate­gic mu­tual trust and deep­en­ing mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial co­op­er­a­tion.

In June 2013, Viet­namese Pres­i­dent Truong Tan Sang paid a visit to China and held talks with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping. Both lead­ers unan­i­mously agreed that friend­ship be­tween China and Viet­nam is the com­mon wealth of both peo­ples, and both coun­tries should con­tinue ad­her­ing to the prin­ci­ples of “good­neigh­bor­li­ness, friend­ship and all­round co­op­er­a­tion” and con­tinue to be “good neigh­bors, good friends, good com­rades and good part­ners” to each other.

With the joint ef­forts of both lead­ers, China and Viet­nam have laid out an over­all pat­tern of co­or­di­na­tively ad­vanc­ing mar­itime, land and fi­nan­cial co­op­er­a­tion, ush­er­ing in a newfuture of boom­ing de­vel­op­ment in their bi­lat­eral ties. The work­ing group for joint mar­itime de­vel­op­ment es­tab­lished by two coun­tries has held two rounds of con­sul­ta­tions and achieved some pos­i­tive progress.

In this con­text, both coun­tries should join hands to cher­ish and carry for­ward the hard-won good mo­men­tum and, in par­tic­u­lar, re­main vig­i­lant against any alien­ation in­sti­gated by the United States and Ja­pan based on their strate­gic in­ter­ests.

There is no doubt that Viet­nam’s lat­est provoca­tive ac­tiv­i­ties in the South China Sea have had an un­fa­vor­able in­flu­ence on its other­wise good in­ter­ac­tion with China. In or­der to main­tain the healthy de­vel­op­ment of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and the sta­bil­ity of the South China Sea, the Viet­namese au­thor­i­ties should re­turn to rea­son as soon as pos­si­ble, im­me­di­ately stop all provoca­tive ac­tiv­i­ties and with­drawall of its ves­sels and per­son­nel from the op­er­at­ing site of the Chi­nese oil rig. The au­thor is a re­searcher with the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

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