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President of the Vietnam Society of International Law (VSIL) Dr. Nguyen Ba Son

President of the Vietnam Society of International Law (VSIL) Dr. Nguyen Ba Son has sent an open letter to the President of Chinese Society of International Law (CSIL) Prof. Huang Jin.

The letter stated that the activities of the HD8 and other Chinese vessels in Vietnam’s waters seriously violated international law, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and was contrary to agreements between the leaders of the two countries, negatively affecting the traditional friendship between the Vietnamese and Chinese people.

Dr. Nguyen Ba Son wrote his open letter to his Chinese counterpart: “I will not talk about the sovereignty issue over Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands) and Truong Sa (Spratly Islands), which has been repeatedly affirmed by the Vietnamese Government, but only focus on the international legal perspective of the current activities of the HD8 seismic survey vessel.”

Not an overlapping or disputed area

The open letter said: The area in which the HD8 seismic survey ship is operating is entirely within the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam as determined on the basis of Articles 57 and 76 of the UNCLOS. This is not an overlapping or disputed area between Vietnam and China.

According to UNCLOS regulations, the rights of a coastal state to exclusive economic zones and continental shelves are exclusive, meaning that if the coastal state does not explore or exploit resources in these areas, no one has the right to conduct these activities without the permission of the coastal state. All exploration, exploitation, survey and research activities for resources there must be clearly approved by the coastal state.

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Photo: HD8 seismic survey vessel

The operation of HD8 vessel, despite Vietnam’s objections, has seriously violated UNCLOS and Vietnamese laws regarding Vietnam's sovereignty and jurisdiction in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam.

The activities of other Chinese vessels in order to obstruct the lawful activities of Vietnamese coast guard vessels seriously violated the above mentioned regulations and created the risk of losing maritime safety in this area.

Unjustified citation

According to Dr. Nguyen Ba Son, some Chinese international law experts often refer to the "nine-dash line" to justify China's claim to "historic rights" in the waters within the so-called "nine-dash line."

 

On the other hand, China also relies on UNCLOS to claim the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf from the islands in the East Sea of which China is one of the sovereign claimants.

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China's absurd "nine-dash line" in the East Sea is opposed by countries in the region.

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With these references, China contended that the water that HD8 and other Chinese vessels operated in is an area belonging to Chinese jurisdiction. This is completely absurd. There is no legal basis under international law and UNCLOS for the "nine-dash line". Vietnam and other countries in the region and around the world have never recognized any implications of the scope of their rights over the waters assigned to this so-called "nine-dash line".

Some Chinese international law experts cited a paragraph in the preamble of the UNCLOS "Affirming that matters not regulated by this Convention continue to be governed by the rules and principles of general international law” to justify its arguments about historical factors and ambiguous claims to create overlapping waters between China and countries along the East Sea.

However, issues regarding the scope and status of territorial waters, sovereignty rights and national jurisdiction, especially the exclusive economic zone, continental shelf, as well as the issue of archipelagic state and archipelagic waters, are all clearly defined by UNCLOS, absolutely not "unregulated issues".

China must withdraw its ship immediately

The open letter of the President of the Vietnam Society of International Law to his Chinese counterpart affirmed that Vietnam and China are both member states of UNCLOS, voluntarily accepting the obligations of the Convention, so every explanation and application contrary to the provisions of the Convention are null and void.

“I hope that you (Prof. Huang Jin) and CSIL members will advise relevant Chinese authorities on international legal aspects and recommend that the Government immediately stop all violations of international law, and immediately withdraw the HD8 ship as well as its escorts out of the waters belonging to Vietnam's sovereignty and jurisdiction, ” emphasized Dr. Nguyen Ba Son.

He stated that all VSIL members have vowed to use all measures prescribed by international law, especially UNCLOS, to protect the legitimate rights and interests of their country.

Thai An

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