Rule of law must be upheld in East Sea

(VOVWORLD) - China has recently stepped up its illegal claims in the South China Sea (known as the East Sea in Vietnam) while the world is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. But a number of countries have voiced their support for freedom of navigation, rejected China’s claims in the East Sea, and called for international law to be upheld.

The East Sea is now drawing attention even from countries outside the region who want to preserve peace and stability as well as freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea.

Focused on upholding the rule of law

In the last three months, China has repeatedly acted in ways that threaten peace and stability in the region. It has conducted exercises in the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, announced the establishment of something called the “Xisha district” in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago and a “Nansha district” ib Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago and released a so-called “standard title” for 80 features in the East Sea.

China’s actions have been soundly rejected by the international community. Australia announced it will continue to strongly advocate for freedom of navigation through the South China Sea. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that Australia will continue to take its own actions and initiatives. The Philippine Defense Ministry released a statement supporting the international community’s call for rule-based order in the East Sea. In the statement, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called on the Chinese government to comply with the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to which China is a signatory.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a press conference on Tuesday expressed concern over China's recent actions. He said Japan opposes any actions that increase tensions in the South China Sea and added that Japan has consistently advocated the rule of law and the use of peaceful means in place of force and coercion and said Japan will cooperate with other countries to defend this principle.

The Indian Foreign Ministry on Thursday said that India firmly stands for freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce in these international waters, in accordance with international law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. India believes that any differences should be addressed peacefully through diplomatic and legal processes without using or threatening to use force.

The US State Department released a statement that the US champions a free and open Indo-Pacific and is strengthening its policy concerning a vital, contentious part of that region — the South China Sea.

US Secretary of State said the US is making clear that Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them. In the South China Sea, the US seeks to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes," Pompeo said.  He emphasized that the world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its own maritime empire. 

Vietnam wants peace, stability in the East Sea

As a country with sovereign rights and direct interests in the East Sea, Vietnam always pursues a consistent policy of promoting peace, stability and cooperation in the East Sea settling disputes through dialogue and other peaceful means, respecting law-based order at sea and fully and responsibly implement the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Vietnam and other ASEAN countries lauded recent announcements by the US State Department and other countries and touted a statement released at the 36th ASEAN Summit which says the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is a legal framework governing all maritime activities. Countries inside and outside the region must respect the rule of law and join efforts to build a region of peace, stability, and development.