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China should have stopped tours of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago

December 04, 2020 | 07:31

China should have respected Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes and cancelled tours of Vietnam’s Paracel islands.

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Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang

Vietnam Thursday asked China to stop escalating tensions with actions that exacerbate violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos.

Le Thi Thu Hang, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, made the statement at the ministry’s regular press briefing in Hanoi on December 3, following news that China recently resumed cruise ship tours of the Paracel islands.

“All activities conducted in these two archipelagoes without Vietnam’s permission seriously violate the country’s sovereignty, breach international law and are declared null and void,” said Hang.

She asked China to stop such tours and other activities that may increase tensions, complicate the situation, and run counter to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) known as the Bien Dong Sea (translated as East Sea) in Vietnam.

She added that these activities are not conducive to the maintenance of peace, stability and cooperation in the South China Sea, as well as to concerned parties’ ongoing efforts in negotiating the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) and bilateral relations.

“Vietnam once again holds it has sufficient historical evidence and legal basis to assert its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes in accordance with international law”, stressed the spokesperson, reported the VOV.

Two tourism ships would resume operations starting December 9 and December 10, with tours lasting four days and three nights, starting from Hainan’s Sanya City to Paracel’s Yagong Island, the department said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese army Monday deployed its Nanyi 13 hospital ship to the Fiery Cross Reef of Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands, the Chinese national broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported. The ship, equipped with 100 hospital beds, is expected to be a mobile medical unit at the Truong Sa Islands for both military and civilian purposes.

Earlier, on December 1, the Chinese province of Hainan announced it has resumed cruise routes to Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands illegally occupied by China, following an 11-month hiatus due to COVID-19.

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Satellite photo shows North Island, part of the Paracel Islands in the East Sea, September 2017. Photo by Planet Labs via Reuters.

China has taken a series of provocative actions in the waters since the start of this year as countries around the world were focused on battling the Covid-19 pandemic, including the formation of the so-called ‘Xisha’ and ‘Nansha’ districts in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands, sinking Vietnamese fishing vessels off the Hoang Sa, unilaterally issuing a fishing ban and sending a ship to harass a Malaysian oil and gas exploration vessel, according to the vnexpress.

Vietnam has repeatedly protested and asked China to desist from its illegal, provocative actions.

China should also refrain from actions that are not conducive to the maintenance of peace, stability and cooperation in the Bien Dong Sea (South China Sea) as well as negotiations on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, affecting Vietnam-China relations, she added.

She said that Vietnam has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) islands in accordance with international law.

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Tarah Nguyen