August 31, 2019 – China is engaged in a long-term and consistent campaign of coercing Southeast Asian countries to abandon their legitimate rights in the East Sea, according to an American scholar.
Tension escalated since the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escort vessels returned to Việt Nam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) earlier this month.
China’s behaviour had become more challenging as the country had deployed more ships to the East Sea than before, said Gregory B Poling, Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) and a fellow with the Southeast Asia Programme at the US’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
He urged Southeast Asian nations to demonstrate a clear viewpoint in protecting their rights in line with international law.
Echoing Poling’s view, professor Stein Tonnesson from the Peace Research Institute Oslo said China deterring regional countries from conducting lawful activities in the East Sea and interfering in Việt Nam’s oil and gas mining in its EEZ was systematic.
He advised Southeast Asian countries to push for talks in order to seek rational and practical solutions.
As ASEAN Chair next year and a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2020–21 term, Việt Nam would be positioned to beef up dialogue and negotiations, said professor Kavi Chongkittavorn, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Security and International Studies, Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University.
In a joint statement issued on Thursday, the E3 countries of France, Germany and United Kingdom expressed their concerns about the situation in the East Sea “which could lead to insecurity and instability in the region.”
They called on all coastal nations to take steps that “reduce tensions and contribute to maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability and safety in the region, including as regards the rights of coastal States in their waters and the freedom and rights of navigation in and overflight above the East Sea,” according to the statement.
The statement stresses the three countries’ role as State parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and highlights their interest in the application of the convention, which “sets out the comprehensive legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas including in the South China Sea (called East Sea by Việt Nam) must be carried out and which provides the basis for national, regional and global co-operation in the maritime domain.”“France, Germany, and the United Kingdom also welcome the on-going negotiations between the Southeast Asian nations and China in view of achieving a rules-based, co-operative and effective Code of Conduct consistent with UNCLOS in the South China Sea and encourage progress towards its early conclusion,” according to the statement.