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Australian expert calls China's establishment of so-called Sansha city a provocation

07:54 | 21/04/2020

Professor Carl Thayer from Australia’s University of New South Wales was quoted by Vietnam News Agency as saying that China’s announcement of the establishment of the so-called “Xisha district” (Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago) and “Nansha district" (Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago) under “Sansha city” is “a provocation, illegal under international law.”

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Daily flag ceremony of soldiers stationed on Truong Sa Lon (Grand Spratly) island. Photo: VNA

China’s action is a violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and seriously undermines negotiations among China and ASEAN member states for a legally binding Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC), he said.

It is a provocation because it goes against the spirit and content of the Vietnam-China agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related issues reached in October 2011. It also seriously affects Vietnam’s sovereignty and jurisdiction, while undermining trust between the two countries, the scholar said.

Thayer cited Point 5 of the DOC, which states that "The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability" in the East Sea.

China’s unilateral action seriously complicates the situation and affects peace and stability in the East Sea, the professor said.

After China announced the establishment of what it calls the “Xisha” and “Nansha” districts in Vietnam’s Paracel and Spratly Islands, the spokesperson of Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry Le Thi Thu Hang said: “Vietnam has strongly affirmed many times that it has sufficient historical evidence and legal foundation to assert its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos.”

Vietnam strongly protests the establishment of the so-called “Sansha city” and related acts as they seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty, she said.

China seized the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam by force in 1974, and has since been occupying them illegally. China also formed what’s called the “Sansha City” on the Woody Island since 2012, with the intention of taking control of islands in the East Sea.

Hang stressed that those moves of China are invalid and unrecognised, and they are not favourable for the friendship among nations but further complicate the situation in the East Sea, the region and the world.

“Vietnam demands that China respect Vietnam’s sovereignty, abolish its wrongful decisions related to the moves and not to commit similar acts in the future,” the spokesperson asserted.

According to VOV5, the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) was signed at the ASEAN summit on October 4, 2002, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

DOC signatories agree to abide by international norms including to peacefully resolve disputes, not use or threaten to use armed force, respect the freedom of navigation, practice restraint in order not to complicate or escalate disputes, engage in dialogues and consultation, and contribute to the compilation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

The signing of the DOC in 2002 was a joint effort by all the ASEAN members and China and the first joint document relating to the East Sea. It was seen as an important step toward resolving maritime issues between the two sides.

A joint statement on the ASEAN-China strategic partnership adopted in Bali, Indonesia, on October 8, 2003, confirmed that the implementation of the DOC is a cooperative security measure between ASEAN and China.

At the 13th ASEAN-China high-level summit in Hanoi in October, 2010, leaders reiterated their commitments to fully and effectively implementing the DOC and working toward the COC.

ASEAN and China adopted guidelines for implementing the DOC in 2011, which cover the implementation of projects and compliance with other procedures including respecting the freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea (internationally referred to as the South China Sea).

All these must be in line with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to resolve sovereignty and territorial disputes by peaceful measures, not use or threaten to use force, seek solutions via negotiations and friendly consultative meetings, practice restraint, and not complicate disputes to affect peace and stability.

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