By Suudi Nur
To understand region problem between interest China and soverreiignity In south China Sea (SCS) region, needed Because . all Southeast Asian countries feel the heat of China’s overbearing behavior, But only some of them try to stand firm for their national cause and self respect of the citizens and the generations to come.
Though almost all the countries in Southeast Asia. Are reeling under Chinese debt, only few have courage to oppose the situation that could go against their interests and sovereignty. That is show by Vietnam steady”s aproasch On this contexts Vietnam is one of those countries that had objected to the Chinese nefarious designs of capturing maximum areas of SCS. Its responses have ranged from diplomatic protests and appeals to the international community and media to the threat of legal action.
It has also stepped up its defence cooperation with external countries. This clear.Vietnam had indeed showed courage in restraining China in many ways, Vietnam’s actions alongwith other actors, have made it difficult for China to exercise an entirely free hand in pursuing its objectives.
Some axpert Souht Asia studies beieve. there has been a noticeable change in China’s stance in the South China Sea. In 2014. When China first embarked on land reclamation and island building, It is claimed that its efforts were essentially for improving the ‘working and living conditions of people stationed on these island”.
Later, it started military buildup in those places. China’s deployment May to July 2014 of its newest and most advanced deep-sea oil rig (Haiyang Shiyou) in the Paracel island under the security cover of various military armaments were contrary to China’s peace rhetoric. China’s enhanced presence has been noticeable especially since 2016, the year when the Arbitral Tribunal favoured with the Philippines in its case against China.
It propagated nine-dash theory claiming major part of SCS and various islands, reclaiming islands, militarizing the region, showing economic generosity, putting forth Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) etc., which were all indicative of some certain long term hawkish planning of China. Vietnam, as a claimant state to the Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, has adopted several low profile, but significant measures to oppose what it perceives as China’s encroachment of its territorial integrity and national sovereignty in the SCS .(Melayu Pos,Apri;30th. 2019) In additition, Vietnam has lodged verbal and diplomatic protests against China’s encroachment terming it as a “seriously violation” of vietnam’s sovereignty, “increasing tension and instability” and is not “conducive to the maintenance of peace, stability and cooperation in SCS”.
It called on China to stop “militarization” of the area. On several occasions, Vietnam has highlighted that China’s action in the South China Sea were in contravention to the existing regional and bilateral agreements. Vietnam also tried its best to internationalise the issue, terming China as the aggressor and Vietnam as the aggrieved party. The 2014 oil rig standoff between Vietnam and China, Vietnam went international by circulating documents to the United Nations viocing its opposition to China’s deployment of the oil rig and reaffirm its sovereignty over the paracel island near the oil rig. Hanoi was able to convince ASEAN Foreign Ministers, who issued a statement on the developments in the South China Sea. Vietnam further invited groups of foreign reporters to draw international attention to China’s illegal activities and action over the oil rig deployment. Vietnam consistently conveyed the key messages, which cast China in a negative light. It also highlighted the bullying attitude of Chinese Navy in the area trying to intimidate and provoke Vietnam.
Vietnam adopted all peaceful methods to make China understand Vietnam’s position. Vietnam has also threatened legal action against China in the past if its bilateral efforts failed. In December 2014, when the Philippines case against China was before the Arbitral Tribunal. Vietnam submitted a statement recognizing tribunal’s jurisdiction over the case and raising strong objections to any Chinese claim based on the nine-dash line. Another approach that seemed to have caused China some concern was Vietnam’s threat of legal action against it. Vietnam not only timed this threat to coincide with the Philippine case against China in the South China Sea, but also submitted documents to the Arbitral Tribunsl to make it know that it reserved thr right to submit its legal right and interests in the South China Sea.(Demokratis,April,5th,2019 ( Since the oil rig standoff, Vietnam has made a concerted effort to strengthen its defense ties and partnerships with other non-regional foreign powers such as the United States, Australia, Japan and India. At the same time, Vietnam has positioned these engagements as part of its omni-directional foreign policy to avoid an overreaction from China. Such actions will not only help Vietnam in maintaining good relations with other non-regional countries, but also these countries can be asked for any help at times of need and avoid demilitarization and monopoly of the SCS by a singel country. Yes it true Vietnam and Japan issued a joint statement in May 2018 that emphasized the importance of non-militarization and urged parties concerned (an implicit reference to China) not to take unilateral actions that could change the status quo complicate the situation in the South China Sea. According above Vietnam has also played soft in its approach not to sensitise the situation. Vietnam does not seem wiling to draw too musch attention to its differences with China at this juncture. It had called off two drilling expeditions in July, 2017 and March, 2018 on Beijing’s objections, but carreid out its drilling operation (Russia’s Rosefeft) despite China’s Objections. In August 2018, Vietnam signed an agreement with Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan and Tekoku Oil to sell gas from South China Sea blocks close to waters disputed by Beijing. Thus, Vietnam has shown deftness in diversifying the problematic situation among various countries which may counter China.
The approach that Vietnam ultimately takes in the South China Sea Vis-à-vis China is not only a good example for other regional countries, but also it is the right time to get united and push forth the concerted efforts for a common cause. Note : Some source ideas by Lye Liang Fook, Senior Fellow and Co-Coordinator of the Vietnam Studies Programme and Ha Hoang Hop, Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS, was taken for preparing this article Jakarta, May14th,2019