South China Sea becoming a potential flashpoint
southchinaseaAmid reports that China has placed J-11 and J-7 fighter jets on aÂ disputed island in the South China Sea, Vietnam has reiterated its determinationÂ to protect its rights and maintain regular activities in its sovereign waters. VietnamÂ will continue to cooperate with other countries, including India, to explore andÂ exploit resources within its 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). “”Together with all other countries, Vietnam will spare no efforts to make the South China Sea a region of peace, stability and cooperation for development,”” Vietnamese Ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh said in his remarks at aÂ conference on â€œThe South China Sea: Security and Economic Implications for Indiaâ€ on Wednesday.
CautioningÂ that the current situation in South China Sea is worsening due to the dangerousÂ activities of China that have serious implications for security and developmentÂ of many countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including India, he said that allÂ parties should exercise self-restraint to avoid any escalation in the situationÂ in the region. He also favoured strict and full implementation of theÂ Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) and early adoption of the Code ofÂ Conduct on the South China Sea.
AssertingÂ that Vietnam has historical evidence and legal foundation to confirm itsÂ sovereignty over both Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, theÂ Vietnamese Ambassador said that his country has since 17th centuryÂ owned and peacefully controlled these islands. However,Â the envoy said that Vietnam was ready to work with other claimants to settle theÂ territorial disputes over Paracel and Spratly Islands by means of multilateralÂ and also bilateral negotiations in a peaceful manner in accordance withÂ international laws.
PaintingÂ a grim scenario, he said that Chinaâ€™s activities were threatening peace,Â security, stability and cooperation in South China Sea. Before 1947, allÂ geographical maps printed by China showed their territory stopped at HainanÂ Island only. In 1974, China forcibly occupied Paracel Islands which were underÂ Vietnanamâ€™s administration. In 1988, China again used force to occupy some reefsÂ in the Spratly Islands, the envoy said. InÂ 2009, he pointed out, China officially claimed an area within a nine-dot linesÂ as their historic waters which cover 80 per cent of South China Sea and overlapÂ in a large scale with the EEZs of all other countries surrounding the SouthÂ China Sea, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
OverÂ the past 20 months, more than 2,900 acres of land has been reclaimed by China,Â accounting for 95 per cent of all land reclaimed by others in the SpratlyÂ Islands over the past 40 years, he claimed. China has also built airstrips onÂ three artificial islands and began conducting flights to the airstrip it hadÂ built at Fiery Cross Reef of Spratly Archipelago. Most recently, China has builtÂ a helicopter base on Duncan island and deployed HQ-9 long-range surface-to-airÂ missiles on Woody island of Paracel Archipelgo which indicate Chinaâ€™s firmÂ intention to militarize the South China Sea, the envoy said. AppreciatingÂ Indiaâ€™s position on resolving the South China Sea disputes peacefully, theÂ Vietnamese Ambassador cited as a “”good example””, the settlement of the maritimeÂ disputes between India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal by using the UNâ€™sÂ Arbitration Tribunal.
SpreadÂ over 3.7 million square kilometer surface area, the South China Sea not onlyÂ provides the surrounding countries with oil and gas, seafood and other naturalÂ resources, but also serves as the most critical shipping route between theÂ Pacific and Indian Ocean. Nearly 30 per cent of worldâ€™s cargo passes through theÂ South China Sea. With Chinaâ€™s aggressive campaign in the region, it is clearÂ that this complicated 21st century dispute where half a dozen nationsÂ are making competing claims and tension has escalated in recent years is notÂ heading towards an early and peaceful settlement. Concerns are not misplacedÂ about the South China sea becoming yet another flashpoint with serious globalÂ consequences.