Vietnam asks China and Philippines to restrain in South China Sea

The parties involved need to comply with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and not to complicate the situation in the waters, foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang told the press Thursday.

She asked countries not to further tension and not to take over unoccupied structures in the waters.

“Behave responsibly and contribute practically and positively to peace and stability in the region,” Hang said.

She affirmed that these are necessary actions while countries are looking for peaceful solutions to disputes in the East Sea, using the Vietnamese name for the waterway.

Hang’s comments came following recent encounters between China and the Phillipines near Thitu, the second largest island of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago which is under Vietnamese sovereignty but claimed and now occupied by the Philippines. 

On March 5, Philippine officials said Chinese fishing boats forced Filipino fishermen around the island to leave.

The U.S.-based think tank Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the International Strategic Research Center (CSIS) said on February 7 that 95 Chinese vessels were deployed close to the island last December 20, before many were recalled and the number dropped to 42 on January 26.

The Philippine government’s plan to build a beaching ramp on Thitu to facilitate the transport of materials to lengthen the island’s runway to accommodate larger planes.

“The drop in the number of government vessels, mirroring the reduction of the militia presence, suggests Chinese forces have settled into a pattern of monitoring and intimidation after their initial large deployment failed to convince Manila to halt construction,” AMTI said.

The South China Sea recently also saw more American presence. The U.S. sent B-52 bomber flights over the waters on March 4, saying it was part of routine training missions. The U.S. Pacific Airforce sent additional two aircraft on Thursday, saying U.S. aircraft regularly operate in the South China Sea in support of allies, partners, and a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Hang reiterated at the press briefing that Vietnam has full legal grounds and historical evidence to assert indisputable sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes in accordance with international law.

Referring to the incident last week when a Chinese vessel rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat off the central coast, the spokewoman said the five rescued fishermen are on their way back to the mainland.

Vietnamese authorities are continuing to verify the incident and will ensure the legal rights and interests of these fishermen. 

According to the National Committee for Emergency Response, Disaster Prevention and Rescue in Vietnam, Quang Ngai fishing vessels were sunk by Chinese ships (BKS 44101) in the area of Da Loi (Discovery) Island in the Paracels.

China seized the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam by force in 1974, and has since been illegally occupying them.

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