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Peaceful resolution of disputes underlined at bi-regional workshop
Pending a peaceful resolution of disputes, what is pressing now in the South China Sea is for all parties to exert self-restraint and avoid actions that would complicate the situation, a Vietnamese told a recent Asia-Europe workshop in Hanoi.
As part of preparations for the forthcoming 10th Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF-10) in Milan, the September 9th-10th workshop dealt with issues related to peace and security in the two continents.
In his presentation on “Peace and Security in Asia – Issues and Solutions”, Phạm Văn Chương, President of the Vietnam Committee for Asian-African-Latin American Solidarity and Cooperation, said:

Ever since the birth of the AEPF, peace and security have always been a focus of its initiatives. Yet, at this pre-AEPF event, I am sad to say that for millions of Asians, notably women, children and the elderly, living in an environment of peace and security remains something elusive and to be longed for.
People in Asia are still faced with multiple threats – traditional and non-traditional – that are increasingly complex and interwoven in many cases, while greater regional and international integration brings additional challenges. We are witnessing, among others, terrorist acts, internal conflicts and border clashes, territorial and jurisdictional disputes, nuclear arms race and militarization, trafficking in drugs, arms and persons, climate change and natural calamities, land grabbing, and sea piracy and harassment that render fisherfolk’s livelihood insecure. All this deserves our attention since they are impacting heavily the life of human beings.
These days, we have been deeply shocked at the videos showing, one after the other, the beheading of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, two American journalists taken hostage by Islamic State (IS) extremist gunmen. A third prisoner, David Haines, a British aid worker, has been warned by his captors that he would be the next. In the cases of Foley and Sotloff, the US Government and their families, each in their own ways, had tried to save their lives but to no avail. What would come this time to Haines, alas, nobody knows!
Now, allow me to jump to Libya, which is not in Asia but where the issues are linked to ours. Three years after the devastating NATO military intervention supposed to “protect the country’s people”, people are being killed daily and the country is sliding swiftly into chaos. After Tripoli international airport was seized by Islamist militants last month, at least 11 airplanes have been reported missing. Fears have been raised that the stolen commercial jetliners could now be used to carry out September 11 - style attacks across the region on the anniversary of the tragedy this month.
Once more, the dimensions of the threats posed by terrorism have been shown in stark relief, and coordinated international actions against terrorism have become ever more necessary. Still, comprehensive plans of action against terrorism should not be limited to violent counter-measures, but attach primary importance to addressing the diverse root causes of terrorism.
In the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians were killed and countless others wounded in recent attacks and counter-attacks, particularly bombings targeting schools and other civilian institutions. Many people’s organizations represented here today have raised their voices, condemning the indiscriminate killing of innocent people and demanding an end to the fighting. Now that a new, long-term ceasefire agreement has been signed, we urge that all parties concerned abide by it and promote negotiations for an early return of peace. Ultimately, for peace, security and stability in the Middle East to be durable, solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict should unavoidably take into consideration the fundamental national rights of the Palestinian people.
In Syria, joint efforts have been exerted by international institutions in dismantling stockpiles of chemical weapons, which have caused the loss of human lives. With the humanitarian situation deteriorating, humanitarian assistance should be provided to alleviate the suffering of civilians.
In Northeast Asia, disputes over land and water in the East China Sea have given rise to deep concern, regionally and internationally. Involving countries with huge military potentials, they should be resolved by peaceful and diplomatic means.
Grave apprehension has also been caused by recent developments in the Korean Peninsula, notably the testing of ballistic missiles. It is highly important to enhance dialogue and create an atmosphere conducive to an early resumption of the Six-Party Talks thereby paving the way for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is crucial to peace and security in the region.
In Japan, so far the only A-bombed country, actions have been taken and voices raised against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, underlining particularly the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their use. People from different walks of life are urging that international negotiations should start on a nuclear weapons convention, and that the next NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) Review Conference, which will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, should be the best opportunity to do it.
In Southeast Asia, ASEAN member states have, at their top-level events last month in Myanmar, reaffirmed their commitment to preserve theirs as a zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction, as stated in the 1995 Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) and the ASEAN Charter. They have also stressed the importance of strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime to maintain peace, security and prosperity in the region.
Meanwhile, developments which increased tensions in the South China Sea over recent months have caused profound concern in the region and elsewhere. At stake, in the first place, are peace, stability, maritime security as well as freedom of navigation in and over-flight above this second busiest sea lane of the world. The issue involves the interests of not only countries bordering the South China Sea, but also many others in Asia-Pacific and the world. It should also be viewed against the background of increased US military presence and US-China competition and/or cooperation in Asia-Pacific. Its resolution requires efforts from all countries concerned.
At stake are also peace, security, stability and cooperation in Southeast Asia. The issue involves the interests of all regional countries and many others, and its resolution requires efforts from two or more countries directly concerned.
Then, there are sovereignty and jurisdictional disputes over islands and waters in the South China Sea. The issues involve the interests of two or more countries, regional and non-regional, and their resolution requires efforts from two or more countries directly concerned, depending on the cases.
All those issues related to the South China Sea should be solved by peaceful means, including dialogue, consultations and negotiations, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, notably the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by the ten ASEAN member states and China, the 2012 Joint Statement of the 15th ASEAN-China Summit on the 10th Anniversary of the DOC, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Statement on the Current Developments in the South China Sea issued on May 10th 2014, and the agreements reached between the countries directly concerned.
What is most pressing now is for all parties to refrain from the threat or use of force, and to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions that would complicate the situation and affect peace and stability, as underlined in Articles 4 and 5 of the DOC. Meanwhile, substantive negotiations should be held among ASEAN member states and China for an early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).  

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This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, which accounted for over 16 million deaths. (A French colony at the time, Vietnam was also dragged into the War, and some 12,000 Vietnamese were killed on European battlefieds). Certainly, most of those 16 million human lives could have been saved if dialogue had been resorted to instead of force. A century after the Great War began, a lesson historians have drawn for succeeding generations remains as relevant as ever, and allow me to recall it here as a recommendation: You really have an obligation to your people to exhaust dialogue before you use force./.
 

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