• Wed
  • Jul 30, 2014
  • Updated: 5:26am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Vietnam's maritime provocations against China set a dangerous course

Gong Yingchun says China has the legal right to take countermeasures

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 1:38am

In recent days, the Vietnamese authorities have dispatched a large number of ships, including some naval vessels, to the waters off Zhongjian Island [known by some as Triton Island], forcibly disturbing the normal drilling operations of a Chinese oil rig and ramming China's escorting civilian ships.

Such provocative actions not only pose a serious threat to the safety of the drilling rig and the lives of those working on it; they also infringe the right of Chinese government vessels to carry out maritime law-enforcement tasks within the seas under China's jurisdiction.

It is true that there is a territorial dispute between China and Vietnam over some islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands [also known as the Spratly Islands], but there is no dispute between the two countries over the Xisha Islands [also known as the Paracel Islands], of which Zhongjian Island is a part.

It is also true that delimitation has yet to be determined for the waters between the Xisha Islands and Vietnam's coastline. However, the drilling operation by the Chinese company is only 17 nautical miles from Zhongjian Island, yet 150 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coastline. The location obviously falls within China's offshore waters, notwithstanding the lack of an official delimitation line. There is no possibility of overlapping claims.

According to Article 56 and Article 60 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, China has exclusive sovereign rights of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing 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 that by taking the line that there has been no maritime delimitation, Hanoi has chosen to view the whole sea between China and Vietnam as a disputed area. Vietnam's activities, a violation of international practices, have also set a dangerous precedent for a country to brazenly interrupt another nation's normal maritime operations in the waters under the latter's jurisdiction.

The actions of the Vietnamese authorities are a serious provocation. The harassment by its ships of the Chinese oil rig has infringed China's exclusive sovereign rights. Vietnam should be held accountable for the consequences of its actions. China has the right to take countermeasures in accordance with international law.

Two international agreements - the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, and the Protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf - came into effect in 1992. China and Vietnam have ratified and are party to these conventions.

As stipulated by the two documents, China has a legitimate right to exercise its jurisdiction and impose sanctions against any country whose activities endanger the safety of navigation and its fixed platforms on its continental shelf.

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

The Vietnamese attempt to force China to give up its legitimate rights and interests by escalating regional tension is both dangerous and futile. On the contrary, Hanoi will place itself in a dilemma it cannot handle.

Gong Yingchun is an expert on international law with the Beijing-based China Foreign Affairs University

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This article is now closed to comments

321manu
If this Gong dude is an international law expert, then I am Peter Pan. While China "controls" the Paracels, it doesn't "own" it, since China's claim is contested by both Vietnam and Taiwan. This article is another example of a CCP lackey taking a very disingenuous view of reality.
The rig sits in international waters, but also within Vietnam's EEZ, since China's "claim" of EEZ in this case (as in all other cases) is hardly established and accepted. "The location obviously falls within China's offshore waters" is most certainly a misstatement. The only thing "obvious" from this article is that Gong has no idea of what he speaks.
phandong
Even a Chinese international lawyer expert has admitted that the location of the oil rig is "17 nautical miles from Zhongjian Island, yet 150 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coastline". As usual, he argues that the Zhonggjiian island can generate 200nm, not 12nm as stipulates under the UNCLOS. Vietnam should take Mr. Zhong ' s essay and the latest announcement from Taipei that it will subject to all legal challenge of the maritime dispute as opportunity to seek a legal opinion from the UNCLOS whether these dispute islets can claim EEZ.
mikesherman1957
If I want to read articles pupeting the official PRC propaganda, I can find that in plenty of places. Where is your journalistic integrity?
Yknot
According to the facts provided by Gong Yingchun, the drilling rig is within the 200 EEZ of Vietnam and outside of the 12 mile territorial waters of Zhongian Island. No wonder the Vietnamese are upset by the actions of China.
5376d5bb-c2cc-4700-96bc-35090a320969
and SCMP thinks he's an expert on international law? how about just basic decency? just so that everyone knows, the paracel islands have always been claimed by vietnam and in the past were under vietnamese control. since when there is no territorial dispute?
globe.harmony.1
China has a long history on Paracel islands.
The fact remains today that Paracel Islands are Chinese territories, owned and controlled by China with Chinese governmental and administrative staffs residing on the islands for decades. The islands are also open for cruise business.
Learn some logic. So if I claim your island, it becomes disputed?
So you think you understand international law better than others? LOL.
53775607-56c8-4448-96cb-52a60a3209cb
@globe.harmony.1: woah! Look who's talking, js another ignorant idiot and he's even nick named himself "globe.harmony.1" as if he's a peace loving man. Haha what a joke u r. Go read up some history you Nazi Chinese loser
5376e23e-d63c-4b48-ad9a-52aa0a3209cb
What do you know about the history in Paracel island?
Did You get this information from your government?
really???
pls tell me it's not true
heeehaaa
5374782a-a290-43d7-9123-52b10a3209cb
So sad to see the SCMP's weekend editorial pages are no different than China Daily. Really disappointing.
globe.harmony.1
You don't like it when the truth is spoken. Too bad.
Perhaps you should only read news from western media which always sing the same song against China and the Chinese.

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