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VPDF reiterates stand against military deployments on South China Sea artificial islands
The need for an end to militarydeployments on artificial islands and substantive efforts toward a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea has been underlined by the Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation in a pamphlet recently off the press.
The second updated English edition of the VPDF’s publication “Vietnam and the East Sea” is composed of a brief foreword and 8 chapters, namely:
I. Position and importance of the East Sea
II. Vietnam’s waters in the East Sea
III. Delimitation of marine boundaries with neighboring countries.
IV. Vietnam’s sovereignty over the HoàngSa (Paracel) and Trường Sa (Spratly) archipelagos
V. Vietnam’s stand on East Sea issues
VI. Recent developments in the East Sea
VII. Grave concern expressed by regional and world opinion
VIII. Related international, regional and bilateral documents.

Full text of the pamphlet follows:
FOREWORD

The situation in the East Sea  is becoming ever more complicated and tense. Recent developments could be detrimental to peace and stability in the region. Profound concern has been expressed by public opinion, in the region and the world over.
In 2012, the Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation published a pamphlet in English titled “Vietnam and the East Sea”. In 2014, a second edition of the pamphlet was issued with updated information. Ever since, many important events have taken place.
To update readers with information on new developments and aspects of the East Sea situation, the Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation releases this third edition of the pamphlet, with amendments in information and documentation.

The Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation

I. POSITION AND IMPORTANCE OF THE EAST SEA
1. Overview:
The East Sea is a semi-enclosed sea, encompassing an area of around 3,500,000 square kilometers. Bordering it are 8 ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and China. It is an area of strategic importance to Asia-Pacific countries and others in the world.
Lying on a maritime artery linking the Pacific Ocean with the Indian Ocean, and Europe and the Middle East with Asia, the East Sea has been considered the second busiest sea lane in the world. Passing through the East Sea are 150-200 ships daily, about 50% of which with a capacity of over 5,000 tons each, and more than 10% of which over 30,000 tons each. Through the East Sea, oil and other commercial materials are channeled from the Near and Middle East and Southeast Asia to Japan, the Republic of Korea and China. Over 90% of world commercial traffic goes by sea, and 45% of which through the East Sea. Thus, the Sea is of tremendous importance to many countries, especially those in the region, in terms of geo-strategy, security, maritime communication, and economy.
The East Sea holds huge marine reserves, living things (aquatic products) and non-living things (minerals) alike, vital to life in coastal countries and their economic development. It is seen as one of the five largest oil and gas basins of the world. Continental shelves with great oil and gas potentials include those in Brunei-Sabah, Sarawak, Malaya, Pattani Thai, South CônSơn, the Mekong River, the Red River and the Pearl River estuary. 
2. The East Sea’s importance to Vietnam
Vietnam has a 3,260-km coastline and over 4,000 islands, including 2 offshore archipelagos – the HoàngSa (Paracel) and the Trường Sa (Spratly). Of the 63 provinces and province-equivalent cities of Vietnam, 28 border the sea. The East Sea has not only supplied marine products for coastal inhabitants for thousands of years, but also provided Vietnam with conditions to develop local economies, outlets to regional and international markets, channels for exchange and integration with other cultures, and a crucial defense line.
Economically, the East Sea facilitates the development of Vietnam’s cutting-edge industries, such as aquaculture, oil and gas, maritime communication, shipbuilding and tourism. The natural conditions of the coasts offer Vietnam’s maritime communication tremendous potentials: ten deep-water and numerous medium-sized ports, with a total capacity of 50 million tons of cargoes a year.
Marine resources abound in the East Sea. In Vietnamese waters, some 11,000 living species have been identified, including 6,000 species of benthos, 2,400 species of fish (130 with commercial value), 653 species of seaweeds, 657 species of zooplankton, 537 species of phytoplankton, and 225 species of shrimps. Fish reserves are estimated at 3.1-4.1 million tons, of which 1.4-1.6 million tons are exploitable. The abundant marine resources have helped make aquaculture a leading economic sector ranking third in the country in terms of export value.
Oil and gas represent the largest natural resource in Vietnam’s continental shelf. Many deposits have been identified as potentially sizeable and conveniently exploitable, such as in the Cửu Long and South CônSơn basins.
Vietnam’s waters provide favorable conditions for developing tourism, already a significant contributor to the country’s economy. 
Besides, in coastal areas lie large potentials of sandy minerals, such as titanium, zircon, tin, gold, iron, manganese, kaolin, and rare earth. 
In terms of national security and defense, the East Sea plays a very important role as the country’s eastern and southeastern defense line. The islands and archipelagos in the East Sea, especially the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa, are of great significance not only to overseeing maritime traffic in the East Sea but also to ensuring Vietnam’s strategic security.
II. VIETNAM’S WATERS IN THE EAST SEA
1. Legal framework for Vietnam’s waters
The Vietnamese State has promulgated many sea-related legal documents, such as the Statement of the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam dated 12 May, 1977 on its territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf; the Statement of the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam dated 12 November, 1982 on the baseline from which the breadth of its territorial sea is measured; the Law on National Borders, the Maritime Law, the Petroleum Law; and Government Decrees detailing the treatment of administrative offences in activities related to the sea, such as environment, aqua products, maritime communication, oil and gas, and national security and defense in Vietnamese waters.
On 21 June, 2012, the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, XIIIth Legislature, 3rd Session, adopted the Law of the Sea of Vietnam, with 7 chapters and 55 articles.
Chapter I: General provisions
Comprises 7 articles providing for the scope of this law; legal application; terminology; principles of management and protection of the sea; policy on the management and protection of the sea; international cooperation on maritime matters, state management of the sea.
Chapter II: The maritime zones of Vietnam
Comprises 14 articles providing for establishment of the baseline; internal waters; legal status of the internal waters; territorial sea; legal status of the territorial sea; contiguous zone; legal status of the contiguous zone; exclusive economic zone; legal status of the exclusive economic zone; continental shelf; legal status of the continental shelf; islands and archipelagos; the internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of islands and archipelagos; legal status of islands and archipelagos.
Chapter III: Operations in maritime zones of Vietnam
Comprises 20 articles providing for general provisions; innocent passage in the territorial sea; obligations while conducting innocent passage; sea lanes and traffic separation in the territorial sea for innocent passage; temporary suspension or restriction of innocent passage in the territorial sea; foreign military vessels and government vessels coming to Vietnam; responsibilities of foreign military vessels and government vessels in the maritime zones of Vietnam; operation of foreign submarines and other underwater vehicles in Vietnam’s internal waters and territorial sea; criminal jurisdiction over foreign vessels; civil jurisdiction over foreign vessels; communication in ports, piers or docks of Vietnam; search and rescue; artificial islands, installations or structures at sea; preservation and protection of marine resources and environment; marine scientific research; acts forbidden in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam; ban of illegal stockpiling, use or trafficking of weapons, explosives and toxic substances; ban of trafficking in persons, unlawful trafficking; transporting or stockpiling of narcotics; ban of illegal broadcasting, the right of hot pursuit.
Chapter IV: Maritime economic development
Comprises 5 articles providing for principles of maritime economic development; development of maritime economic industries; planning for maritime economic development; building and development of maritime economy; incentives and investment preferentials for economic development of islands and maritime economic activities.
Chapter V: Sea patrol and surveillance
Comprises 3 articles providing for sea patrol and surveillance forces; duties and scope of responsibility of sea patrol and surveillance; flag, uniform and badge.
Chapter VI: Handling of violations
Comprises 4 articles providing for escorting and location for settlement of violations; preventive measures; notice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; handling of violations.
Chapter VII:  Implementation provisions
Comprises 2 articles providing for entry into effect; guidance of implementation.
2. The baseline and internal waters of Vietnam. 
The baseline used for measuring the breadth of Vietnam’s territorial waters consists of straight baselines as made public by the Government, joining the furthest seaward points of its coastline and the furthest seaward points of its coastal islands. The internal waters of Vietnam are the waters adjacent to the coast on the landward side of the baseline and form part of Vietnam’s territory. The State of Vietnam exercises full, absolute and complete sovereignty over the internal waters as it does over the land territory.
3. The territorial sea of Vietnam:
The territorial sea of Vietnam has a breadth of 12 nautical miles measured from the baseline. The State of Vietnam exercises its full and integral sovereignty over its territorial sea, the airspace over the territorial sea, as well as its bed and its subsoil. In Vietnam’s territorial sea, foreign ships shall enjoy the right of innocent passage.
4. The contiguous zone of Vietnam:
The contiguous zone of Vietnam is the sea area adjacent to and beyond the territorial sea, and is 12 nautical miles wide from the outer limit of the territorial sea. 
The State exercises its sovereign rights, jurisdiction and other rights in accordance with international law on contiguous zone.
The State exercises control in the contiguous zone to prevent and administer acts of infringement of legislation on customs, tariff, health or immigration committed in the territory or territorial sea of Vietnam.
5. The exclusive economic zone of Vietnam:
The exclusive economic zone of Vietnam is an area adjacent to and beyond the territorial sea of Vietnam, and integrates with the territorial sea to form a maritime zone extending to 200 nautical miles from the baseline. 
In its exclusive economic zone, the State of Vietnam exercises its sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring, exploiting, managing and conserving the natural resources (whether living or non-living) of the waters superjacent to the seabed, of the seabed and of its subsoil. The State of Vietnam exercises its exclusive rights and jurisdiction over other activities for the economic exploration and exploitation of the exclusive economic zone.
In the exclusive economic zone, the State of Vietnam exercises jurisdiction over all scientific researches, and its right to protect the environment from pollution.
6. The continental shelf of Vietnam:
The continental shelf of Vietnam comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that are adjacent to and beyond the territorial sea of Vietnam, and extends to 200 nautical miles from the baseline. In compliance with the stipulations of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Vietnam in 2009 submitted to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf two National Reports on the defined area of continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles: a partial submission related to the North Area, and a joint submission with Malaysia related to the South Area.
In its continental shelf, the State of Vietnam exercises full sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing all natural resources, including non-living resources and living organisms belonging to sedentary species.
The maritime areas of Vietnam as defined in the 1977 Government Statement and the 2012 Law of the Sea fully conform with the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
III. DELIMITATION OF MARINE BOUNDARIES WITH NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES

Due to concrete conditions in the East Sea, Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf overlap those of certain neighboring countries. The overlapping zones are between Vietnam and China in the BắcBộ (Tonkin) Gulf and a small area off the Gulf (South of CồnCỏ Island and where the coast of China’s Hainan Island lies opposite that of Vietnam’s QuảngTrị province); between Vietnam and Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia in the Gulf of Thailand; and between Vietnam and Indonesia in the South of the East Sea.
These overlapping zones are of bilateral nature. On the basis of stipulations by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Vietnam and some other countries have managed to settle gradually the issue and clearly delimitate the overlapped areas. 
1. Delimitation of sea boundary with Thailand
Talks for the delimitation of overlapping seas between Vietnam and Thailand were conducted from 1992 to 1997. On 09 August, 1997 in Bangkok, the representatives of the Governments of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Kingdom of Thailand signed an Agreement on delimitation of sea boundary between the two countries in the Gulf of Thailand. Since then, naval forces of the two countries have conducted several joint patrols to enhance security at sea. After ratification by both sides, the Agreement has become effective and been deposited at the United Nations.
2. Delimitation of territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves with China in the BắcBộ (Tonkin) Gulf 
On 19 October, 1993, an Agreement on basic principles for the settlement of border and territorial issues between Vietnam and China was signed, stating: “The two sides shall apply international law, consult international practices, follow the principle of equity, and take into account all related situations in the Gulf to reach an equitable solution”.
From 1992 to 2000, different rounds of negotiations, official and non-official, were held between Vietnam and China at the levels of government negotiation delegations, joint working groups, non-official joint working teams, and experts’ teams. 
On 25 December, 2000, an Agreement on delimitation of territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves in the BắcBộ (Tonkin) Gulf was signed between Vietnam and China. The two sides were committed to respect each other’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves in the BắcBộ Gulf. In case of stretching-over oil and gas reserves, the two sides shall, through friendly consultations, seek agreement for exploitation and equitable distribution of benefits. After ratification by both sides, the Agreement has become effective and been deposited at the United Nations.
3. Delimitation of continental shelves with Indonesia.
From 1978 to 2003, Vietnam and Indonesia held different rounds of negotiations at the levels of government negotiation delegations, expert delegations, and retreats of Heads of expert delegations. On 26 June, 2003, the representatives of the Governments of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Republic of Indonesia signed an Agreement on delimitation of continental shelves between the two countries. After ratification by competent authorities of both sides, the Agreement has become effective and been deposited at the United Nations.
4. Related transitional agreements
Vietnam and Malaysia have overlapping continental shelves and exclusive economic zones in the Gulf of Thailand. The overlapped area is not large, but have oil and gas potentials. On 05 June, 1992, the two Governments signed an MOU on cooperation for joint exploration and exploitation of the overlapped area as a temporary solution pending a definite delimitation of the boundary. Cooperation shall be realized on the principles of equal share of expenses and equitable distribution of profits; exploration and exploitation operations shall be carried out by Petrovietnam and Petronas on the basis of commercial arrangements. Such arrangements have been signed by the two petroleum corporations. Vietnam and Malaysia shall come to a definitive delimitation of boundary in the overlapped area at a later stage.
Vietnam and Cambodia have overlapping territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves in the Gulf of Thailand. In 1982, an Agreement on historical waters was signed between the two countries, stipulating notably: the two sides agree to conduct joint patrol and control in the historical waters; sea fishing there by local people of the two countries shall continue following practices hitherto, while exploitation of other natural resources shall be agreed upon by the two sides, and in case of no agreement, neither side should act unilaterally. Over recent times, naval forces of the two countries have conducted a number of joint patrols in the historical waters.
According to the 1983 Treaty on principles for settlement of border issues between Vietnam and Cambodia, negotiations shall be conducted at an appropriate time for the delimitation of sea boundary between the two countries in these historical waters, in the spirit of equality and mutual respect.
IV. VIETNAM’S SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE HOÀNG SA (PARACEL) AND TRƯỜNG SA (SPRATLY) ARCHIPELAGOS. 
1. Overview of the Hoàng Sa and the Trường Sa archipelagos 
The Hoàng Sa archipelago consists of over 30 islets, coral reefs, cays, shoals and banks sub-divided into two groups – the An Vĩnh (Amphitrite) Group in the East and the LưỡiLiềm (Crescent) Group in the West, about 120 nautical miles from LýSơn Island (QuảngNgãi province).
The Trường Sa archipelago consists of over 100 islets, coral reefs, cays and banks, about 248 nautical miles from Cam Ranh (KhánhHòa province) and 203 nautical miles from PhúQuý Island (BìnhThuận province).
The two archipelagos have as a common geological feature tiny coral island structures. The largest coral island in the HoàngSa is PhúLâm (Woody) Island with an area of about 1.5 square kilometer. The largest coral island in the TrườngSa is Ba Bình (Itu Aba) Island with an area of about 0.5 square kilometer.
2. Vietnam is the first State to have established its sovereignty over the HoàngSa (Paracel) and Trường Sa (Spratly) archipelagos, and the only State to have exercised continuous and peaceful administration of the archipelagos in conformity with stipulations by international law.
By the early XVIIth century, the HoàngSa and Trường Sa had been res nullius.  In the first half of the 17th century, the Nguyễn Lords organized the HoàngSa (Golden Sand) Brigade, with men recruited from An Vĩnh village, BìnhSơn district, QuảngNgãi prefecture, to retrieve cargoes from wrecked ships, catch precious aqua products, make measurements and drawings, plant trees, and set up landmarks on the islands. In the geographical knowledge of the time, the name HoàngSa Archipelago covered both Hoàng Sa (Golden Sand) and VạnLýTrường Sa (Ten-Thousand-Mile Sandbank).
In the first half of the XVIIIth century, the Nguyễn Lords organized in addition the BắcHải (North Sea) Brigade, with men recruited from TứChính hamlet, CảnhDương village, BìnhThuận prefecture, to go to the TrườngSa with the same mission as the Hoàng Sa Brigade. 
The activities of the Nguyễn Lords in the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa were not only recorded in historical writings by Vietnamese scholars, e.g. Toàntậpthiênnamtứchílộđồthư (Collection of Route Maps of the Southern Country, Complete Works, 1686) by ĐỗBá alias CôngĐạo, or Phủbiêntạplục (Miscellany on Pacification at the Frontier, 1776) by LêQuýĐôn, but also jotted down by foreigners who resided and did business in Vietnam.
In the period of French domination, the French Government further consolidated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the HoàngSa and Trường Sa archipelagos. In 1925 and 1927 in particular, France conducted surveys and patrols in the HoàngSa. From 1930 to 1933, French forces were stationed in the TrườngSa. Then, for administrative convenience, France in 1933 merged the TrườngSa archipelago into BàRịa province, and in 1938 made the Hoàng Sa an administrative unit of ThừaThiên province. Furthermore, France set up landmarks, lighthouses, and meteorological and telecommunication stations on the two archipelagos. In international relations, France on many occasions protested against China’s claims over the HoàngSa archipelago.
In 1950, France officially handed the administration of the HoàngSa archipelago over to the BảoĐại Government. At the 1951 San Francisco Conference, the representative of the BảoĐại Government reaffirmed Vietnam’s age-old sovereignty over the two archipelagos without meeting opposition or reservation from any other participant. The Conference also turned down the proposal for Japan’s returning the HoàngSa and Trường Sa archipelagos to China. In terms of administration, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam in 1956 placed the TrườngSa under PhướcTuy province, and in 1961 moved the Hoàng Sa from ThừaThiên to Quảng Nam province.
In the process of liberation of South Vietnam and reunification of the country, Vietnamese naval forces in April 1975 liberated the islands occupied by the Saigon forces, i.e. TrườngSa (Spratly Island), SơnCa (Sand Cay), Nam Yết (Namyit Island), Song TửTây (Southwest Cay), SinhTồn (Sin Cowe Island) and An Bang (Amboyna Cay). Meanwhile, the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) of the Republic of South Vietnam issued a declaration confirming Vietnam’s sovereignty over the HoàngSa and Trường Sa. Ever since, the Vietnamese Government has promulgated important legal documents, reaffirming that the HoàngSa and Trường Sa are inseparable parts of Vietnamese territory, and that Vietnam has full sovereignty over these two archipelagos in line with stipulations by international law and international practices.
In terms of administration, in 1982 the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam established the island district of TrườngSa under ĐồngNai province, and the island district of Hoàng Sa under Quảng Nam - ĐàNẵng Province. After an administrative boundary remapping, the island district of HoàngSa now belongs to ĐàNẵng City and the island district of Trường Sa belongs to KhánhHòa province. In April 2007, for more efficient administration, the Vietnamese Government decided to establish in the TrườngSa island district a township (on Trường Sa) and two communes (on Song TửTây and SinhTồn, respectively).
Thus, Vietnam has ample legal and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the HoàngSa and Trường Sa. Vietnam is the only State that has occupied and governed the two archipelagos peacefully, continuously, and in accordance with stipulations by international law.
In 1956, 1974, 1988 and 1995, China occupied by armed force the HoàngSa archipelago and a number of structures in the Trường Sa archipelago, all of which belong to Vietnam.
Many maps drawn by different countries including China since the VIIth century also show that the southernmost point of China’s territory in the East Sea lies at Hainan Island.
V. VIETNAM’S STAND ON EAST SEA ISSUES
1. Vietnam’s stand on settlement of disputes in the East Sea
Vietnam stands for solving all disputes related to the East Sea, including disputes concerning sovereignty over the HoàngSa (Paracel) and Trường Sa (Spratly) archipelagos, by peaceful means, in conformity with the United Nations Charter and international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The 1982 UNCLOS is the fruit of a long and arduous process of negotiations and agreement by the international community, including China, Vietnam and other countries bordering the East Sea. Rational and fair, the Convention constitutes an important legal basis for countries concerned with seas and islands.
The above-mentioned stand is reaffirmed by the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in its Resolution No. 01/1994/NQ-QH9 of 23 June, 1994, Resolution ratifying the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Article 4 of the 2012 Law of the Sea of Vietnam, and other Vietnamese sea-related legal documents, as well as in senior Vietnamese leaders’ statements and others at various multilateral and bilateral forums.
Related to the East Sea, it should be made clear that there are three main issues: i) maintenance of peace, security, stability, and safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the East Sea; ii) sovereignty and jurisdictional disputes among a number of countries over features and sea areas in the East Sea; and iii) bilateral disputes between Vietnam and China over the Hoàng Sa (Paracel) archipelago.
- The first issue involves the interests of all countries bordering the East Sea and many others in and outside the region, and its solution requires an international participation by all countries concerned.
- Solution of disputes involving a number of countries requires a multilateral participation by the countries concerned.
- Disputes involving Vietnam and China over the HoàngSa archipelago should be solved by peaceful means in accordance with the United Nations Charter, principles governing international relations, and international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Vietnam persistently pursues a foreign policy of independence and autonomy. Vietnam is interested in and ready to join all efforts aimed at maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea on the basis of respect for international law and the legitimate interests of all parties concerned.
- Vietnam attaches great importance to relations of friendship and cooperation with all other countries, especially neighbors, including China, on the basis of respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, equality, mutually beneficial cooperation, in the interest of peace, stability and development in the region and the world.
2. Vietnam’s stand on maintenance of peace, security and stability in the East Sea.
- Peace, security and stability in the East Sea are directly linked to peace and stability of the region and the world. Should conflicts break out in the East Sea, they would negatively affect not only the interests of the 9 countries bordering the East Sea directly, but also those of many other countries.
- Maintenance of peace, security and stability in the East Sea is an objective and inevitable requirement for maintaining peace, security and stability in the entire region, meeting the shared aspirations and interests of the countries bordering the East Sea and many others.
- Therefore, discussions at regional and international forums on issues related to peace, security and stability in the East Sea, such as non-militarization, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight, respect for and abidance by international law, are inevitable and necessary. Participation and contribution by regional and non-regional countries targeting maintenance of peace, security and stability in the East Sea are highly valued and always welcomed and supported by ASEAN member states, including Vietnam.
3. Vietnam’s stand on full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and advance toward a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).
a) The 2002 Declaration between ASEAN and China on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) includes important commitments on maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea, notably:
- The commitment to resolve their disputes in the East Sea by peaceful means, in observance of principles of international law, the United Nations Charter, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the five principles of peaceful co-existence;
- The commitment to refrain from actions that would further complicate the situation in the East Sea, including refraining from expanding occupation;
- The commitment to intensify confidence building measures; to undertake cooperative activities in less sensitive domains, like safety of navigation, scientific research, combating crimes at sea, advance toward a Code of Conduct (COC).
b) The working out and signing of the 2002 DOC result from common efforts by both ASEAN and China. They marked a positive and constructive step toward maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea. Not only the ASEAN member states, China and other regional countries but also many others in the world (the United States, Australia, Russia, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, etc.) have expressed high appreciation of and warm support for the DOC. Many have called upon ASEAN countries and China to enhance efforts toward full implementation of their commitments in the DOC and establishment of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).
c) The 2002 DOC was signed by the representatives of the governments of China and ASEAN member states. Therefore, both ASEAN countries and China have the responsibility to implement fully the stipulations of the DOC and to work for a COC. Leaders of both ASEAN member states and China have affirmed their commitments to implement the DOC. The 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta (May 2011) reconfirmed the determination to achieve a COC by 2012 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the signing of the DOC. However, until now, a COC is yet to be established as China has been reluctant to enter into substantive negotiations.
4. Vietnam’s and other countries’ stand on the “Nine-Dash Line” claim in the East Sea.
a) China’s “Nine-Dash Line” (or “U-Shaped Line”, or “Cow’s Tongue Line) claim in the East Sea was officially raised in May 2009 by the Chinese Permanent Mission to the United Nations protesting against Vietnam’s submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf of two National Reports on the defined area of continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baseline.
b) Thisabsurd “Nine-Dash Line” claim, which covers nearly 80% of the East Sea and has been drawn arbitrarily, vaguely and without coordinates, is completely void of legal basis and historical grounds, because:
- It runs counter to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to which China is a party; the waters claimed by the “Nine-Dash Line” cannot be China’s territorial waters, or exclusive economic zone, or continental shelf.
- The “Nine-Dash Line”has never been mentioned in any Chinese document concerning the law of the sea.
- The claim has been dismissed by countries bordering the East Sea and non-regional countries alike.
- The claim encroaches upon the exclusive economic zones and continental shelves of Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. 
c) Since China raised this claim at the United Nations, there have been objections from regional and non-regional countries. A few examples:
- Just one day after China raised the claim at the United Nations, Vietnam sent a note to the UN Secretary General, officially rejecting it. Vietnam has also reaffirmed its position through statements by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in contacts with the Chinese side at different levels.
- In July 2010, Indonesia sent to the United Nations a note protesting against the “Nine-Dash Line” claim, underlining its absurdity.
- In April 2011, the Philippines also sent a note to the United Nations objecting the “Nine-Dash Line” claim. Senior leaders of the Philippines have reiterated this objection on various occasions.
- In a note to the UN Secretary General, Malaysia has dismissed China’s note to which was attached a “Nine-Dash Line” map.
- Scholars from various countries (the USA, France, Belgium, Indonesia, etc…) have underlined the illegality of the “Nine-Dash Line” claim. At international conferences as well as in scientific studies, researchers have emphasized that China should clarify the basis of the claim.
- China’s establishment (on 21 June, 2012) of the so-called “Sansha city” covering also Vietnam’s Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos with a maritime area of over 2 million square kilometers (basically as the “Nine-Dash Line” claim) is a grave violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos and has no legal value.
5. On the lawsuit brought to the UN Court of Arbitration by the Philippines against China, and Vietnam’s stand 
On 22 January, 2013, the Philippines announced that it had initiated arbitral proceedings against China under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) related to disputes in the South China Sea. On 24 April, 2013 the President of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) appointed arbitrators to serve on this arbitral tribunal. The Tribunal has also appointed the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) to act as Registry for the proceedings.
The Tribunal convened in The Hague a hearing on jurisdiction and admissibility (07-13 July, 2015) and another hearing on the merits (24-30 November, 2015). It rendered an Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility on 29 October, 2015 concerning the 15 submissions made by the Philippines.
On 05 December, 2014, Vietnam sent a Statement to the Tribunal for the protection of Vietnam’s lawful rights and interests.
On 12 July, 2016, the Tribunal issued its Award.
Concerning historic rights and the “Nine-Dash Line”, the Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the “Nine-Dash Line”.
Concerning the status of features, the Tribunal concluded that none of the Spratly Islands was capable of generating extended maritime zones, and that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone.
Considering the effect on the marine environment of China’s recent large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands at seven features in the Spratly Islands, the Tribunal found that China had caused severe harm to the coral reef environment and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened or endangered species.
The Tribunal also found that China’s recent large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands was incompatible with its obligations as a signatory to the UNCLOS and had aggravated disputes.
Concerning Vietnam’s reaction and stand, on 01 July, 2016, upon being informed that the Tribunal would issue its Award on 12 July, 2016, Vietnam expressed the wish for an equitable and objective ruling that would serve as a basis for the peaceful resolution of disputes in the East Sea. Vietnam stands for abidance by and full implementation of all stipulations and procedures of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
On 12 July, 2016, promptly after the Tribunal’s Award had been made public, Vietnam welcomed the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s issuance of the final ruling; and reiterated its stance on the lawsuit as it was presented in the Statement dated 05 December, 2014 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Tribunal. In that spirit, Vietnam supports settlement of disputes in the East Sea by peaceful means, including diplomatic and legal processes, without the use or threat of force, maintenance of peace and stability in the region, security, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the East Sea, and respect for the principle of law-abidance in seas and oceans.
On this occasion, Vietnam once more asserted its sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and TrườngSa archipelagos, sovereignty over its internal waters and territorial waters, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf as defined in line with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as all its legitimate rights and interests regarding the geographical structures belonging to the Hoàng Sa and TrườngSa archipelagos.
6. Vietnam’s stand on the issue of “shelving disputes and seeking joint development” in the East Sea.
- Vietnam does not accept “shelving disputes and seeking joint development” in its 200-nautical mile continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, wherever there is no overlapping with any other country’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone. The simple reason is that wherever there is no overlapping, there cannot be any dispute, and another country has no reason to ask for “shelving disputes and seeking joint development” in Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.
- In cases of other countries’ continental shelves and exclusive economic zones overlap those of Vietnam, Vietnam could join other parties concerned in discussions for joint development as a temporary solution. In fact, Vietnam and Malaysia have agreed to exploit jointly oil and gas in the small overlapped area of their continental shelves in the Gulf of Thailand. Eventually, the two countries shall jointly delimitate definitely the sea boundary in this overlapped area.
7. Vietnam’s stand on Vietnamese fishermen’s activities in the HoàngSa (Paracel) archipelago.
- The HoàngSa (Paracel) and Trường Sa (Spratly) archipelagos both belong to Vietnam. For a long time, Vietnamese fishermen have been fishing normally in the HoàngSa area.
- Over recent years, the Chinese side has on many occasions committed seizures, ill-treatment, confiscation of equipment, and imposition of heavy fines against Vietnamese fishing vessels and fishermen, who were fishing as usual in the HoàngSa area. Annually, China has imposed fishing bans in the East Sea. In November 2013, the authorities of Hainan province, China, enacted so-called “Measures to implement the Fisheries Law of the People’s Republic of China”, which came into effect on 01 January, 2014 and according to which foreign fishing vessels entering waters under Hainan province’s administration (covered by the “Nine-Dash Line” claim) should require permission from the local authorities, without which they would be sanctioned under special treatment stipulations. Such moves by China have violated the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the HoàngSa and Trường Sa archipelagos, and Vietnam’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the East Sea.
- Vietnam firmly demands that the Chinese side respect Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa archipelago, refrain from harassing Vietnamese fishing vessels and fishermen, and adhere to the shared perception not to complicate the situation in the East Sea.
VI. RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE EAST SEA
1. China’s illegal placement of oil rig in Vietnamese maritime areas
On 02 May, 2014, China moved its deep-sea drilling rig HYSY 981 escorted by many armed vessels, military ships and aircraft into Vietnamese maritime areas, and illegally placed the rig within Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone as defined under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Vietnam was persistent in pursuing dialogues and contacts with China at various levels and in different forms, strongly protesting against China’s wrongdoings. In response to Vietnam’s goodwill, China continued and even expanded its illegal activities, and deployed more ships and aircraft in the area. According to Vietnamese relevant authorities, China maintained the presence of military, coast guard, marine surveillance, maritime patrol and fishery administration vessels, ironclad fishing ships, and services vessels together with many aircraft around the location of the HYSY 981. Despite the utmost restraint by the Vietnamese law enforcement and civilian ships, China continued to act aggressively as its aircraft and vessels tried to intimidate Vietnamese law enforcement ships by firing high-power water cannons, causing physical damage to many Vietnamese ships and wounded crewmembers on board.
On 11 May, in another resort to resolute means of diplomacy, Vietnam’s Prime Minister NguyễnTấnDũng delivered a key address at the 24th ASEAN Summit, stressing that the incident constituted a direct threat to peace, stability, and navigation safety and security in the East Sea. Various official documents of the ASEAN Summit highlighted the East Sea issue. Prior to the Summit, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers had, for the first time since 1995, issued a separate statement on the developments in the East Sea, which clearly displayed the solidarity, centrality, proactiveness, high sense of responsibility and profound concern of ASEAN over peace, stability and security in the region.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has also expressed concern over the escalating tension in the East Sea, and urged all related parties to resolve disputes in a peaceful way, through dialogue and in conformity with international law, including the United Nations Charter.
Vietnam strongly protests against China’s placement of the oil rig deep inside the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone of Vietnam, encroaching upon Vietnam’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction. This activity also seriously violates international law, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and related agreements between senior leaders of the two countries as well as the Agreement between Vietnam and China on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea related issues. 
While countries within and outside the region are working hard to seek peaceful solutions to disputes and promote active and substantive consultations for a Code of Conduct (COC), China’s moves have complicated the situation and seriously affected peace, stability, safety, security and freedom of navigation, as well as cooperation and development in the region. Vietnam resolutely demanded that China withdraw the HYSY 981 oil rig and all escort vessels and aircraft from Vietnamese maritime areas, respect Vietnam’s sovereignty, and refrain from similar acts in the future.
On 15 July, 2014, China moved the HYSY 981 out of Vietnamese maritime areas. According to Vietnam’s view, China must not illegally re-place the oil rig and perform actions violating Vietnam’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Vietnam’s waters. Vietnam affirms to protect its sovereignty in accordance with international law.
It should be recalled that during previous years, China had taken many actions violating Vietnam’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, notably:
- On 26 May, 2011, three Chinese Marine Surveillance vessels harassed the Vietnamese ship Bình Minh 02 while it was doing seismic oil exploration work at a location 116 nautical miles off the Vietnamese coast, and cut its survey cable.
- On 09 June, 2011, a Chinese fishing boat, supported by two Fisheries Patrol vessels, harassed the ship Viking 2 and cut its survey cable while it was doing seismic exploration work under a contract with Vietnam at a location well within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
- On 23 June 2012, China announced the opening of international bids for 9 oil and gas lots entirely within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, the nearest lot about 13 nautical miles from the Vietnamese PhúQu‎ýisland and 60 miles from the Vietnamese coast.
2. China’s land reclamation and expansion of structures, changing the status quo in the East Sea
Since mid-2014, China has taken pressing actions to transform, reclaim and expand, massively and speedily, structures in TrườngSa under Vietnam’s sovereignty which China had occupied; and built large-scale facilities, legalizing its governance over Vietnam’s Hoàng Sa, which China had seized by armed force. Satellite images show the increasingly intensive land-filling operations of Chinese dredgers and deployment of military equipment in TrườngSa. By June 2015, the total expanded acreage in 7 structures (Cuarteron, Johnson South, Fiery Cross, Gaven, Hughes, Subi and Mischief) has amounted to nearly 1,200 hectares.
The situation in the East Sea has become more complicated and serious. China’s unilateral moves driven by irrational sovereignty ambitions have infringed upon Vietnam’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, violated international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and run counter to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). They have altered the regional strategic balance, gravely threatened peace, security, stability, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the region, and increased the risk of extensive confrontation, clashes and conflicts in the East Sea.
The above-mentioned developments show that the East Sea issue is not just a regional matter, but has attracted the concern of the international community. Vietnam has on different occasions protested against China’s moves in TrườngSa. On 25 June, 2015, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Ministry of Vietnam LêHảiBình declared: “China’s large-scale construction and expansion on rocks and reefs in the TrườngSa archipelago are illegal; they cannot change the fact that Vietnam has sufficient legal ground and historical evidence confirming its national sovereignty over Trường Sa. Vietnam asks China to stop immediately these moves, respect Vietnam’s sovereignty over Trường Sa and Hoàng Sa, comply with international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and refrain from actions that may complicate the situation or change the status quo in the South China Sea.”
3. China’s intensified military and combined military-civilian activities in East Sea
In 2015-2016, the East Sea has witnessed increasingly complicated developments. Following large-scale construction on structures it had seized illegally, China has deployed military installations and equipment, and conducted military and combined military-civilian operations, notably in Hoàng Sa and certain structures of Trường Sa, all under Vietnam’s sovereignty, which China had occupied by armed force in 1956, 1974, 1988 and 1995. This has exacerbated and accelerated the arms race in the region.
China has claimed that its military activities in the East Sea were defensive in nature, limited, and not aimed at regional military hegemony, and that it was committed not to militarize the East Sea. Actual developments, however, have shown that China’s deeds fully contradict its words.
In February 2016, China moved two HQ-9 long-range surface-to-air missile batteries and J-11 fighter planes to Woody Island in HoàngSa. The deployment of military radar targeting arrays and anti-aircraft and anti-submarine missiles has revealed China’s intention to expand its control over the region’s air and sea spaces.
With all this, China has made new steps toward further control in the East Sea. There lies the main cause of increased instability and danger for peace in the region.
Counter-moves have also been taken by other countries in the East Sea. In October 2015 then in January 2016, the United States conducted “Freedom of Navigation Operation Patrols” (FONOPs) in the East Sea, moving the destroyers USS Lassen and USS Curtis Wilbur close to the Trường Sa and Hoàng Sa reefs under China’s illegal occupation and where construction was underway, and B-52 bombers and the USS John Stennis aircraft carrier strike group into the East Sea.
Large-scale and successive joint military exercises have been held by several countries.
China’s moves and other countries’ reaction show that the East Sea issue has been profoundly internationalized. The new tensions in the East Sea have rendered the situation ever more complicated and serious, and may lead to unpredictable developments.
It should be made clear that China’s militarization activity and its attempts at asserting claims for sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction have taken place in areas falling under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of another nation and not China. China’s occupation by armed force of the HoàngSa and a number of structures in the Trường Sa archipelagos, both under Vietnam’s sovereignty, gravely violates international law. Like all other sovereign nations, Vietnam has the right to defend its sovereignty, territorial integrity and legitimate interests, as well as the right to take appropriate measures in self-defense. Vietnam always stands for the resolution of all disputes by peaceful means, in conformity with the United Nations Charter, principles governing international relations, and international law.
VII. GRAVE CONCERN EXPRESSED BY REGIONAL AND WORLD OPINION
1. Press Statement by Chairman of ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat. Vientiane, 27 February, 2016:
“On the South China Sea, the Ministers remained seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments and took note of the concerns expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region. 
The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, security, stability, and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea. 
The Ministers further reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law. 
The Ministers reaffirmed their shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Ministers emphasized the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of activities.
The Ministers underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety, and while noting the momentum and new phase of consultation, urged the expeditious establishment of the code of conduct (COC). They highlighted the need to intensify efforts to achieve further progress in the implementation of the DOC and substantive development of the COC.”
2. Statement of G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Maritime Security, Hiroshima, Japan, 11 April, 2016:
“We are concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas, and emphasize the fundamental importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes. We express our strong opposition to any intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions, and urge all states to refrain from such actions as land reclamations including large-scale ones, building of outposts, as well as their use for military purposes and to act in accordance with international law including the principles of freedoms of navigation and overflight. In areas pending final delimitation, we underline the importance of coastal states refraining from unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the marine environment insofar as such actions jeopardize or hamper the reaching of the final agreement, as well as the importance of making every effort to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature, in those areas. We encourage further engagement in confidence building measures such as dialogue which seek to build trust and security in the region. We call for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety and the early establishment of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).”
3. Declaration by G7 Leaders at Ise-Shima Summit, Japan, 26-27 May, 2016:
“We reiterate our commitment to maintaining a rules-based maritime order in accordance with the principles of international law as reflected in UNCLOS, to peaceful dispute settlement supported by confidence building measures and including through legal means as well as to sustainable uses of the seas and oceans, and to respecting freedom of navigation and overflight. We reaffirm the importance of states’ making and clarifying their claims based on international law, refraining from unilateral actions which could increase tensions and not using force or coercion in trying to drive their claims, and seeking to settle disputes by peaceful means including through juridical procedures including arbitration.
We reaffirm the importance of strengthening maritime safety and security, in particular the fight against piracy, through international and regional cooperation.
We are concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas, and emphasize the fundamental importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes.
We endorse the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement on Maritime Security.”
4. Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on Recent Developments in the South China Sea, 11 March, 201603/2016:
“The EU is committed to maintaining a legal order for the seas and oceans based upon the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This includes the maintenance of maritime safety, security, and cooperation, freedom of navigation and overflight.
While not taking a position on claims to land territory and maritime space in the South China Sea, the EU urges all claimants to resolve disputes through peaceful means, to clarify the basis of their claims, and to pursue them in accordance with international law including UNCLOS and its arbitration procedures.
The EU is concerned about the deployment of missiles on islands in the South China Sea. The temporary or permanent deployment of military forces or equipment on disputed maritime features which affects regional security and may threaten freedom of navigation and overflight is a major concern. The EU therefore calls on all claimants to refrain from militarisation in the region, from the use or threat of force, and to abstain from unilateral actions.
The EU encourages further engagement in confidence building measures which seek to build trust and security in the region. The EU fully supports regional ASEAN-led processes and is looking forward to a swift conclusion of the talks on a 'Code of Conduct' which will further support a rules-based regional and international order. In this connection, the EU reiterates its offer to share best practices on maritime security.”
5. Joint Communique of 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Vientiane, 24 July, 2016:
“We remain seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments and took note of the concerns expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.
We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea. 
We further reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 
We emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities, including land reclamation that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea.
We underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety, and while noting the momentum and new phase of consultations, urged all parties to work expeditiously for the early adoption of an effective Code of Conduct (COC), including through increasing the frequency of ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Meetings and Joint Working Group Meetings on the Implementation of the DOC. 
We highlighted the urgency to intensify efforts to achieve further substantive progress in the implementation of the DOC in its entirety as well as substantive negotiations for the early conclusion of the COC including the outline and timeline of the COC. 
Pursuant to the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety, and pending the early adoption of an effective COC, we stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties.
We reiterated the need to establish the MFA-to-MFA hotline to manage maritime emergencies in the South China Sea. We looked forward to the adoption of a joint statement on the observance of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the South China Sea. Both are seen as deliverables for the ASEAN-China Commemorative Summit. In our view, these are practical measures that could reduce tensions, and the risks of accidents, misunderstandings and miscalculation.”

6. Statement of the 23rd Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Vientiane, 26 July, 2016:
“Acknowledging that peace, security and stability at sea including the safety and security of sea lines of communication are vital to prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and the world; …
Concerned about growing maritime challenges that may affect peace and stability in the region; …
Emphasising the need to enhance cooperation among maritime law enforcement agencies with a view to promoting trust and confidence, and strengthening capacity and coordination, thus dealing more effectively with common maritime security challenges and other maritime challenges;
Recognising that a maritime regime in the region based on international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), that sets out a legal order for peaceful use of the seas and oceans, has facilitated our region’s impressive economic growth;
Committed to upholding the principles of international law, including those enshrined in the UN Charter and other relevant international instruments in the conduct of activities by law enforcement agencies and in the conduct of cooperation activities among them;
Reiterating the need and importance of promoting trust and confidence and exercising self-restraint by all parties and the collective endeavor to maintain peace, stability, safety and security in all seas and oceans in the region.”
VIII. RELATED INTERNATIONAL, REGIONAL AND BILATERAL DOCUMENTS
1.1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was opened for signature on 10 December 1982 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, had signatures from 119 delegations appended to it on that first day, and became effective on 16 November 1994. (Vietnam ratified it on 23 June 1994).
According to the Convention, High seas are “parts of the sea that are not included in the exclusive economic zone, in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a State, or in the archipelagic waters of an archipelagic State” (Art. 86); “the high seas are open to all States, whether coastal or land-locked” (Art. 87.1); freedom of the high seas is exercised under the conditions laid down by this Convention and by other rules of international law comprises freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, freedom of fishing…(Art. 87.1.a,b,e,f); “the high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purposes” (Art. 88); and “no State may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its sovereignty” (Art. 89).
Also under the Convention, Area (for the purposes of this Convention) means “the sea-bed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction” (Art. 1.1); “the Area and its resources are the common heritage of mankind” (Art. 136); and “no State shall claim or exercise sovereignty or sovereign rights over any part of the Area or its resources, nor shall any State or natural or juridical person appropriate any part thereof. No such claim or exercise of sovereignty or sovereign rights nor such appropriation shall be recognized” (Art. 137.1).
Concerning settlement of disputes, the Convention provides that “States Parties shall settle any dispute between them concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention by peaceful means… ” (Art. 279); and “In exercising their rights and performing their duties under this Convention, States Parties shall refrain from any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations” (Art. 301).
2. 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) 
“The Governments of the Member States of ASEAN and the Government of the People's Republic of China,
Reaffirming their determination to consolidate and develop the friendship and cooperation existing between their people and governments with the view to promoting a 21st century-oriented partnership of good neighborliness and mutual trust;
Cognizant of the need to promote a peaceful, friendly and harmonious environment in the South China Sea between ASEAN and China for the enhancement of peace, stability, economic growth and prosperity in the region;
Committed to enhancing the principles and objectives of the 1997 Joint Statement of the Meeting of the Heads of State/Government of the Member States of ASEAN and President of the People's Republic of China;
Desiring to enhance favorable conditions for a peaceful and durable solution of differences and disputes among countries concerned;
Hereby declare the following:
1. The Parties reaffirm their commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and other universally recognized principles of international law which shall serve as the basic norms governing state-to-state relations;
2. The Parties are committed to exploring ways for building trust and confidence in accordance with the above-mentioned principles and on the basis of equality and mutual respect;
3. The Parties reaffirm their respect for and commitment to the freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea as provided for by the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;
4. The Parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;.
5. The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.
Pending the peaceful settlement of territorial and jurisdictional disputes, the Parties concerned undertake to intensify efforts to seek ways, in the spirit of cooperation and understanding, to build trust and confidence between and among them, including:
a. holding dialogues and exchange of views as appropriate between their defense and military officials;
b. ensuring just and humane treatment of all persons who are either in danger or in distress;
c. notifying, on a voluntary basis, other Parties concerned of any impending joint/combined  military exercise; and
d. exchanging, on a voluntary basis, relevant information.
6. Pending a comprehensive and durable settlement of the disputes, the Parties concerned may explore or undertake cooperative activities. These may include the following:
a. marine environmental protection;
b. marine scientific research;
c. safety of navigation and communication at sea;
d. search and rescue operation; and
e. combating transnational crime, including but not limited to trafficking in illicit drugs, piracy and armed robbery at sea, and illegal traffic in arms.
The modalities, scope and locations, in respect of bilateral and multilateral cooperation should be agreed upon by the Parties concerned prior to their actual implementation.
7. The Parties concerned stand ready to continue their consultations and dialogues concerning relevant issues, through modalities to be agreed by them, including regular consultations on the observance of this Declaration, for the purpose of promoting good neighborliness and transparency, establishing harmony, mutual understanding and cooperation, and facilitating peaceful resolution of disputes among them;
8. The Parties undertake to respect the provisions of this Declaration and take actions consistent therewith;
9. The Parties encourage other countries to respect the principles contained in this Declaration;
10. The Parties concerned reaffirm that the adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea would further promote peace and stability in the region and agree to work, on the basis of consensus,  towards the eventual attainment of this objective.
Done on the Fourth Day of November in the Year Two Thousand and Two in Phnom Penh, the Kingdom of Cambodia.” 
3. ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea (20 July, 2012)
“The ASEAN Foreign Ministers reiterate and reaffirm the commitment of ASEAN Member States to: 
1) the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) (2002); 
2) the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) (2011); 
3) the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC); 
4) the full respect of the universally recognized principles of International Law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS);
5) the continued exercise of self-restraint and non-use of force by all parties; and
6) the peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with universally recognized principles of International Law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”
4. Joint statement of the 15th ASEAN-China Summit commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) (19 November, 2012)
“We reaffirm that the DOC signed in 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is a milestone document which embodies the collective commitment of ASEAN Member States and China to promote peace, stability and mutual trust in the South China Sea. 
We note the progress in the implementation of agreed joint cooperative projects under the DOC, which has contributed to the promotion of mutual confidence, trust and cooperation in the South China Sea. 
We also recognize that the full and effective implementation of the DOC would strengthen the strategic relations and partnership between ASEAN and China, and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the wider East Asian region. 
We reaffirm our commitment to the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations (UN), the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and other universally recognized principles of international law which shall serve as the basic norms governing state-to-state relations. 
We reaffirm our mutual respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with international law, and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. 
We agree to continue to uphold the spirit and principles of the DOC to contribute to the promotion of peace, friendship, mutual trust, confidence and cooperation between and among ASEAN Member States and China. 
We reaffirm our commitment to the principles of the DOC by undertaking to:
- Continue to fully and effectively implement the DOC;
- Carry out agreed joint cooperative projects and activities in accordance with the Guidelines for the implementation of the DOC;
- Continue to cooperate to enhance maritime security, including to ensure freedom of commerce, safety of navigation and maritime traffic, in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS;
- Continue to encourage the parties concerned to resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS;
- Continue exercising self-restraint by all parties concerned in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner;
- Keep the momentum of dialogue and consultation to enhance trust, confidence and cooperation, and work together for the adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea on the basis of consensus.”
5. Joint Statement between Vietnam and the United States of America on the occasion of President Barack Obama’s visit to Vietnam, Hanoi, 23 May, 2016
“Vietnam and the United States reaffirmed their shared commitment to the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes, including full respect for diplomatic and legal processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force in accordance with the UN Charter and international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Both countries underscored the commitments of parties to the disputes to refrain from actions that aggravate or broaden the disputes and recognize the importance of strictly implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) and working to accelerate negotiation with substantive results toward the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct (COC). In this regard, both countries expressed serious concerns over recent developments in the South China Sea that have caused tensions, eroded trust and threatened peace, security, and stability. Both countries recognized the imperative of upholding the freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea, called for non-militarization and self-restraint in addressing disputes, reaffirmed shared commitments under the Sunnylands Declaration, and committed to working closely with other ASEAN partners in implementing that Declaration.”
6. Agreement between Vietnam and China on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related issues (11 October, 2011)
“1. Taking the general situation of the two countries’ relationship as the key, originating from a strategic and overall attitude under the guidance of the motto ‘friendly neighborliness, comprehensive cooperation, long-term stability and looking toward the future’ and the spirit of ‘good neighbors, good friends, good comrades and good partners’, and persistently pursuing friendly talks and negotiations to properly settle sea-related issues, thus making the East Sea a territory of peace, friendship and cooperation and contributing to the development of the Vietnam-China comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, as well as to regional peace and stability.
2. In the spirit of fully respecting legal evidence regarding other relevant factors such as history, and at the same time taking into account each other’s reasonable concerns with a constructive attitude, striving to expand common perceptions, narrow differences and continuously accelerate negotiations. Based on a legal regime and principles defined by international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, making efforts to seek basic and long-term solutions acceptable to both sides for sea-related disputes.
3. In negotiations on sea-related issues, the two sides seriously abide by agreements and common perceptions reached by their high-ranking leaders and seriously implement the principles and spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). 
For sea-related disputes between Vietnam and China, the two sides shall solve them through friendly talks and negotiations. Disputes also relating to other countries shall be settled through negotiations with other concerned parties.
4. In the process of seeking basic and long-term solutions for sea-related issues, in the spirit of mutual respect, equal and mutually beneficial treatment, the two sides actively discuss transitional and temporary measures that do not affect the stances and policies of the two sides, including studies and discussions on cooperation for mutual development based on principles described in Article 2 of this Agreement.
5. Addressing sea-related issues in succession and progress with easy issues first and difficult issues later. Firmly speeding up the demarcation of territorial waters off the Tonkin Gulf and actively discussing cooperation for mutual development on these waters. Actively boosting cooperation in less sensitive fields, such as sea-related environment protection, sea-related science research, search and rescue at sea, and prevention and minimization of damage caused by natural disasters. Attempting to enhance mutual trust to facilitate the settlement of more difficult issues.
6. The two sides in turn conduct periodical meetings between heads of government-level border negotiation delegations twice a year and extraordinary meetings if necessary. The two sides agree to set up a hotline mechanism between the government-level delegations to exchange and properly deal with sea-related issues in a timely manner.”

7. Joint Statement between Vietnam and China on the occasion of the visit to Vietnam by General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, Hanoi, 6 November, 2015
“The two sides exchanged opinions sincerely and frankly on sea-related issues, emphasizing that they will strictly comply with the important common perceptions reached between senior leaders of the two Parties and States, seriously implement the  ‘Agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related issues between Vietnam and China’; make proper use of mechanisms for Vietnam – China government-level talks on border and territorial issues, persevere through friendly consultations and negotiations in seeking mutually acceptable fundamental and long-term solutions, conduct active discussions for transitional solutions which do not affect the position and policy of either party, including active study and discussions on cooperation for development… 
The two sides agreed to exercise jointly proper control of disagreements at sea, implement fully and effectively the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), promote an early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) on the basis of consultation and consensus, refrain from actions which may complicate the situation or expand disputes; to handle promptly and adequately newly arising problems, and preserve peace and stability in the East Sea and Vietnam – China relations”.

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The situation in the East Sea is developing complicatedly and dangerously, not only impacting the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of a number of Southeast Asian countries but also threatening peace, security and stability in the entire region.
That requires of regional and non-regional nations efforts toward peaceful resolution of issues in conformity with international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, in the shared interests of the region and the world over.



 

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