March 26, 2021 – The presence of Chinese ships in Whitsun Reef in Trường Sa (Spratly) islands in the South China Sea constitutes a serious violation of Việt Nam’s sovereignty.
Spokesperson for the Vietnamese foreign affairs ministry Lê Thị Thu Hằng made the comment on Thursday during a regular press briefing in Hà Nội the reports 220 Chinese vessels – believed to be manned by maritime militia – moored at a shallow reef known as Whitsun Reef (called Đá Ba Đầu in Việt Nam), part of the Union Bank (or Cụm Sinh Tồn) in the South China Sea (called East Sea in Việt Nam).
“It must be reiterated that Việt Nam has sufficient legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Spratly islands in line with international law,” the Vietnamese diplomat said.
“As a coastal country and a member signatory of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Việt Nam fully enjoys sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction over these waters as identified in accordance with UNCLOS,” she continued.
All Chinese ships’ activities in the territorial seas in the reef off the Spratly islands are a severe violation of Việt Nam’s sovereignty, and violation of UNCLOS on the activities of foreign ships within the territorial seas of littoral countries, Hằng said, adding that they go against the spirit and content of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), complicate the situation, and prove detrimental to the negotiations of the Code of Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (COC) between ASEAN and China.
“Việt Nam urges that China cease all violations, respect the sovereignty of Việt Nam, adhere to 1982 UNCLOS in good will, and comply with DOC, particularly the responsibility to exercise restraint and avoid further complicate situation, and foster an environment conducive to the negotiations of COC, contributing to the maintenance of peace, stability, security, and the maritime rules-based order in the region,” Hằng noted.
Regarding the reports on the presence of Vietnamese law enforcement vessels in the Whitsun Reef area, the spokesperson stressed that “the law enforcement units of Việt Nam carry out the missions and duties as provided in the related laws of Việt Nam, in line with international law, especially 1982 UNCLOS.”