Archive | June, 2013

Historical Fiction: China’s South China Sea Claims – by Mohan Malik | World Affairs

15 June 2013

by Mohan Malik | World Affairs - The Spratly Islands—not so long ago known primarily as a rich fishing ground—have turned into an international flashpoint as Chinese leaders insist with increasing truculence that the islands, rocks, and reefs have been, in the words of Premier Wen Jiabao, “China’s historical territory since ancient times.” Normally, the overlapping territorial claims to sovereignty and maritime boundaries ought to be resolved through a combination of customary international law, adjudication before the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, or arbitration under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). While China has ratified UNCLOS, the treaty by and large rejects “historically based” claims, which are precisely the type Beijing periodically asserts. On September 4, 2012, China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, told US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that there is “plenty of historical and jurisprudence evidence to show that China has sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters.”

Navy frigate “Yantai” of the 11th Chinese naval escort flotilla is to make a five-day first-time ever goodwill visit on August 05, 2012 in Varna, Bulgaria. (C) Pres Panayotov

As far as the “jurisprudence evidence” is concerned, the vast majority of international legal experts have concluded that China’s claim to historic title over the South China Sea, implying full sovereign authority and consent for other states to transit, is invalid. The historical evidence, if anything, is even less persuasive. There are several contradictions in China’s use of history to justify its claims to islands and reefs in the South China Sea, not least of which is its polemical assertion of parallels with imperialist expansion by the United States and European powers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Justifying China’s attempts to expand its maritime frontiers by claiming islands and reefs far from its shores, Jia Qingguo, professor at Beijing University’s School of International Studies, argues that China is merely following the example set by the West. “The United States has Guam in Asia which is very far away from the US and the French have islands in the South Pacific, so it is nothing new,” Jia told AFP recently.

China’s claim to the Spratlys on the basis of history runs aground on the fact that the region’s past empires did not exercise sovereignty. In pre-modern Asia, empires were characterized by undefined, unprotected, and often changing frontiers. The notion of suzerainty prevailed. Unlike a nation-state, the frontiers of Chinese empires were neither carefully drawn nor policed but were more like circles or zones, tapering off from the center of civilization to the undefined periphery of alien barbarians. More importantly, in its territorial disputes with neighboring India, Burma, and Vietnam, Beijing always took the position that its land boundaries were never defined, demarcated, and delimited. But now, when it comes to islands, shoals, and reefs in the South China Sea, Beijing claims otherwise. In other words, China’s claim that its land boundaries were historically never defined and delimited stands in sharp contrast with the stance that China’s maritime boundaries were always clearly defined and delimited. Herein lies a basic contradiction in the Chinese stand on land and maritime boundaries which is untenable. Actually, it is the mid-twentieth-century attempts to convert the undefined frontiers of ancient civilizations and kingdoms enjoying suzerainty into clearly defined, delimited, and demarcated boundaries of modern nation-states exercising sovereignty that lie at the center of China’s territorial and maritime disputes with neighboring countries. Put simply, sovereignty is a post-imperial notion ascribed to nation-states, not ancient empires.

China’s present borders largely reflect the frontiers established during the spectacular episode of eighteenth-century Qing (Manchu) expansionism, which over time hardened into fixed national boundaries following the imposition of the Westphalian nation-state system over Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Official Chinese history today often distorts this complex history, however, claiming that Mongols, Tibetans, Manchus, and Hans were all Chinese, when in fact the Great Wall was built by the Chinese dynasties to keep out the northern Mongol and Manchu tribes that repeatedly overran Han China; the wall actually represented the Han Chinese empire’s outer security perimeter. While most historians see the onslaught of the Mongol hordes led by Genghis Khan in the early 1200s as an apocalyptic event that threatened the very survival of ancient civilizations in India, Persia, and other nations (China chief among them), the Chinese have consciously promoted the myth that he was actually “Chinese,” and therefore all areas that the Mongols (the Yuan dynasty) had once occupied or conquered (such as Tibet and much of Central and Inner Asia) belong to China. China’s claims on Taiwan and in the South China Sea are also based on the grounds that both were parts of the Manchu empire. (Actually, in the Manchu or Qing dynasty maps, it is Hainan Island, not the Paracel and Spratly Islands, that is depicted as China’s southern-most border.) In this version of history, any territory conquered by “Chinese” in the past remains immutably so, no matter when the conquest may have occurred.

Such writing and rewriting of history from a nationalistic perspective to promote national unity and regime legitimacy has been accorded the highest priority by China’s rulers, both Nationalists and Communists. The Chinese Communist Party leadership consciously conducts itself as the heir to China’s imperial legacy, often employing the symbolism and rhetoric of empire. From primary-school textbooks to television historical dramas, the state-controlled information system has force-fed generations of Chinese a diet of imperial China’s grandeur. As the Australian Sinologist Geremie Barmé points out, “For decades Chinese education and propaganda have emphasized the role of history in the fate of the Chinese nation-state . . . While Marxism-Leninism and Mao Thought have been abandoned in all but name, the role of history in China’s future remains steadfast.” So much so that history has been refined as an instrument of statecraft (also known as “cartographic aggression”) by state-controlled research institutions, media, and education bodies.

China uses folklore, myths, and legends, as well as history, to bolster greater territorial and maritime claims. Chinese textbooks preach the notion of the Middle Kingdom as being the oldest and most advanced civilization that was at the very center of the universe, surrounded by lesser, partially Sinicized states in East and Southeast Asia that must constantly bow and pay their respects. China’s version of history often deliberately blurs the distinction between what was no more than hegemonic influence, tributary relationships, suzerainty, and actual control. Subscribing to the notion that those who have mastered the past control their present and chart their own futures, Beijing has always placed a very high value on “the history card” (often a revisionist interpretation of history) in its diplomatic efforts to achieve foreign policy objectives, especially to extract territorial and diplomatic concessions from other countries. Almost every contiguous state has, at one time or another, felt the force of Chinese arms—Mongolia, Tibet, Burma, Korea, Russia, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan—and been a subject of China’s revisionist history. As Martin Jacques notes in When China Rules the World, “Imperial Sinocentrism shapes and underpins modern Chinese nationalism.”

 

If the idea of national sovereignty goes back to seventeenth-century Europe and the system that originated with the Treaty of Westphalia, the idea of maritime sovereignty is largely a mid-twentieth-century American concoction China has seized upon to extend its maritime frontiers. As Jacques notes, “The idea of maritime sovereignty is a relatively recent invention, dating from 1945 when the United States declared that it intended to exercise sovereignty over its territorial waters.” In fact, the UN’s Law of the Sea agreement represented the most prominent international effort to apply the land-based notion of sovereignty to the maritime domain worldwide—although, importantly, it rejects the idea of justification by historical right. Thus although Beijing claims around eighty percent of the South China Sea as its “historic waters” (and is now seeking to elevate this claim to a “core interest” akin with its claims on Taiwan and Tibet), China has, historically speaking, about as much right to claim the South China Sea as Mexico has to claim the Gulf of Mexico for its exclusive use, or Iran the Persian Gulf, or India the Indian Ocean.

Ancient empires either won control over territories through aggression, annexation, or assimilation or lost them to rivals who possessed superior firepower or statecraft. Territorial expansion and contraction was the norm, determined by the strength or weakness of a kingdom or empire. The very idea of “sacred lands” is ahistorical because control of territory was based on who grabbed or stole what last from whom. The frontiers of the Qin, Han, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties waxed and waned throughout history. A strong and powerful imperial China, much like czarist Russia, was expansionist in Inner Asia and Indochina as opportunity arose and strength allowed. The gradual expansion over the centuries under the non-Chinese Mongol and Manchu dynasties extended imperial China’s control over Tibet and parts of Central Asia (now Xinjiang), Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. Modern China is, in fact, an “empire-state” masquerading as a nation-state.

If China’s claims are justified on the basis of history, then so are the historical claims of Vietnamese and Filipinos based on their histories. Students of Asian history know, for instance, that Malay peoples related to today’s Filipinos have a better claim to Taiwan than Beijing does. Taiwan was originally settled by people of Malay-Polynesian descent—ancestors of the present-day aborigine groups—who populated the low-lying coastal plains. In the words of noted Asia-watcher Philip Bowring, writing last year in the South China Morning Post, “The fact that China has a long record of written history does not invalidate other nations’ histories as illustrated by artifacts, language, lineage and genetic affinities, the evidence of trade and travel.” Unless one subscribes to the notion of Chinese exceptionalism, imperial China’s “historical claims” are as valid as those of other kingdoms and empires in Southeast and South Asia. China laying claim to the Mongol and Manchu empires’ colonial possessions would be equivalent to India laying claim to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Malaysia (Srivijaya), Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka on the grounds that they were all parts of either the Maurya, Chola, or the Moghul and the British Indian empires.

China’s claims in the South China Sea are also a major shift from its longstanding geopolitical orientation to continental power. In claiming a strong maritime tradition, China makes much of the early-fifteenth-century expeditions of Zheng He to the Indian Ocean and Africa. But, as Bowring points out, “Chinese were actually latecomers to navigation beyond coastal waters. For centuries, the masters of the oceans were the Malayo-Polynesian peoples who colonized much of the world, from Taiwan to New Zealand and Hawaii to the south and east, and to Madagascar in the west. Bronze vessels were being traded with Palawan, just south of Scarborough, at the time of Confucius. When Chinese Buddhist pilgrims like Faxian went to Sri Lanka and India in the fifth century, they went in ships owned and operated by Malay peoples. Ships from what is now the Philippines traded with Funan, a state in what is now southern Vietnam, a thousand years before the Yuan dynasty.”

And finally, China’s so-called “historic claims” to the South China Sea are actually not “centuries old.” They only go back to 1947, when Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist government drew the so-called “eleven-dash line” on Chinese maps of the South China Sea, enclosing the Spratly Islands and other chains that the ruling Kuomintang party declared were now under Chinese sovereignty. Chiang himself, saying he saw German fascism as a model for China, was fascinated by the Nazi concept of an expandedLebensraum (“living space”) for the Chinese nation. He did not have the opportunity to be expansionist himself because the Japanese put him on the defensive, but cartographers of the nationalist regime drew the U-shape of eleven dashes in an attempt to enlarge China’s “living space” in the South China Sea. Following the victory of the Chinese Communist Party in the civil war in 1949, the People’s Republic of China adopted this cartographic coup, revising Chiang’s notion into a “nine-dash line” after erasing two dashes in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1953.

 

Since the end of the Second World War, China has been redrawing its maps, redefining borders, manufacturing historical evidence, using force to create new territorial realities, renaming islands, and seeking to impose its version of history on the waters of the region. The passage of domestic legislation in 1992, “Law on the Territorial Waters and Their Contiguous Areas,” which claimed four-fifths of the South China Sea, was followed by armed skirmishes with the Philippines and Vietnamese navies throughout the 1990s. More recently, the dispatch of large numbers of Chinese fishing boats and maritime surveillance vessels to the disputed waters in what is tantamount to a “people’s war on the high seas” has further heightened tensions. To quote commentator Sujit Dutta, “China’s unmitigated irredentism [is] based on the . . . theory that the periphery must be occupied in order to secure the core. [This] is an essentially imperial notion that was internalized by the Chinese nationalists—both Kuomintang and Communist. The [current] regime’s attempts to reach its imagined geographical frontiers often with little historical basis have had and continue to have highly destabilizing strategic consequences.”

One reason Southeast Asians find it difficult to accept Chinese territorial claims is that they carry with them an assertion of Han racial superiority over other Asian races and empires. Says Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines law school: “Intuitively, acceptance of the nine-dash line is a corresponding denial of the very identity and history of the ancestors of the Vietnamese, Filipinos, and Malays; it is practically a modern revival of China’s denigration of non-Chinese as ‘barbarians’ not entitled to equal respect and dignity as peoples.”

Empires and kingdoms never exercised sovereignty. If historical claims had any validity then Mongolia could claim all of Asia simply because it once conquered the lands of the continent. There is absolutely no historical basis to support either of the dash-line claims, especially considering that the territories of Chinese empires were never as carefully delimited as nation-states, but rather existed as zones of influence tapering away from a civilized center. This is the position contemporary China took starting in the 1960s, while negotiating its land boundaries with several of its neighboring countries. But this is not the position it takes today in the cartographic, diplomatic, and low-intensity military skirmishes to define its maritime borders. The continued reinterpretation of history to advance contemporary political, territorial, and maritime claims, coupled with the Communist leadership’s ability to turn “nationalistic eruptions” on and off like a tap during moments of tension with the United States, Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines, makes it difficult for Beijing to reassure neighbors that its “peaceful rise” is wholly peaceful. Since there are six claimants to various atolls, islands, rocks, and oil deposits in the South China Sea, the Spratly Islands disputes are, by definition, multilateral disputes requiring international arbitration. But Beijing has insisted that these disputes are bilateral in order to place its opponents between the anvil of its revisionist history and the hammer of its growing military power.

Mohan Malik is a professor in Asian security at Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, in Honolulu. The views expressed are his own. His most recent book is China and India: Great Power Rivals. He wishes to thank Drs. Justin Nankivell, Carlyle Thayer, Denny Roy, and David Fouse for their comments on this article.

 

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FILE - Adm. Samuel Locklear III, the U.S. Pacific Command commander, speaks to reporters at his headquarters in Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, July 25, 2012.

Cohen Calls for Arbitration of South China Sea Dispute – Jessica Seah | The Asian Lawyer

09 June 2013

by Jessica Seah | The Asian Lawyer - In a speech in Hong Kong last Thursday, pioneering China legal scholar Jerome Cohen said China was looking like a “bully” for rejecting international arbitration of its territorial dispute with the Philippines, according to aSouth China Morning Post report.

FILE - Adm. Samuel Locklear III, the U.S. Pacific Command commander, speaks to reporters at his headquarters in Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, July 25, 2012.
FILE – Adm. Samuel Locklear III, the U.S. Pacific Command commander, speaks to reporters at his headquarters in Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, July 25, 2012. (C) VOA)

 
The two countries both claim the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, which are believed to hold rich oil and gas reserves. The Philippines has sought arbitration before a United Nations tribunal but China has insisted on a bilateral resolution.

“The leadership obviously took the view that damage is likely to be less, especially if it can coerce the Philippines into further compromise while arbitration is going on,” said Cohen, who is a New York University School of Law professor as well as of counsel at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind & Garrison, at a speech at Hong Kong University.

“This makes China look bad to the world community … Now it looks like a bully that rejects its legal obligation to settle a dispute under [the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea],” said Cohen. “How is it for any nation to say we’re so correct that we don’t have to go to the impartial tribunal we previously agreed on to hear our views validated?”

In April, the Chinese foreign ministry issued a Chinese language statement saying the Philippines “is trying to use this [arbitration claim] to negate China’s territorial sovereignty and attach a veneer of ‘legality’ to its illegal occupation of Chinese islands and reefs.” The statement said China would never agree to international arbitration.
“When you’re seen to be a violator of international law, you don’t win many votes from the world community,” Cohen said, and added that all “great powers” including the U.S .and China need to be reminded that they are “subject to international limits they sometimes don’t like.”

As a Harvard Law School professor in the 1960s and 1970s, Cohen advised the Nixon White House on its eventual diplomatic opening with China. He subsequently led the first foreign law office in China for Coudert Brothers and remains an active teacher and commentator on Chinese legal affairs.
Email: jseah@alm.com.
(Original version is available at The Asian Lawyer)

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Vietnamese PM’s keynote address at 12th Shangri-La Dialogue

01 June 2013

VOV - Addressing the 12th Asia Security Summit in Singapore on May 31, PM Nguyen Tan Dung has stressed the need to build strategic trust for peace, cooperation and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region to overcome all challenges.

Following is the full text of his keynote address at the summit known as the Shangri-la Dialogue.

Vietnamese PM Nguyen Tan Dung addresses the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore (Photo: VGP)

BUILDING STRATEGIC TRUST FOR PEACE, COOPERATION AND PROSPERITY IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION

Excellency Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,

Dr. John Chipman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

At the outset, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of the Singaporean host, Dr. John Chipman and the organisers of the 12th Shangri-La Dialogue for your kind invitation to me to attend and address this important forum. Since its inception 12 years ago, the Shangri-La Dialogue has truly become one of the most substantive and meaningful security dialogues in the region. I do believe that the full presence of government officials, military leaders, prestigious scholars and all distinguished delegates at this forum reflects the interest and the efforts to jointly preserve peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region in the context of a dynamically changing world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While languages and expressions might differ, I am sure we all agree that without trust, there would be no success and harder work asks for bigger trust. In Vietnam, there is a saying that ‘if trust is lost, all is lost.’ Trust is the beginning of all friendships and cooperation, the remedy that works to prevent calculations that could risk conflicts. Trust must be treasured and nurtured constantly by concrete, consistent actions in accordance with the common norms and with a sincere attitude.

In the 20th century, Southeast Asia in particular and the Asia-Pacific in general were once fierce battlefields and deeply divided for decades. It might be said that the entire region always had a burning desire for peace. To have the peace, development and prosperity, it is a must to build and consolidate strategic trust. In other words, we need to build strategic trust for peace, cooperation and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. That is what I wish to share with you at this forum.

To begin with, Vietnam has a profound confidence in the bright future of development and cooperation in the region that we are living in. Yet the trend of increased engagement and competition, particularly by big powers not only offers positive elements but also involves negative risks that require us to take initiative and work together to prevent.

The Asia-Pacific region now enjoys dynamic development and is home to the three biggest economies and many emerging ones of the world. Here, the trend of multi-layer and multi-sector cooperation and linkages is evolving vigorously and becomes the prevailing one of the day. This is quite a promising prospect for us all.

However, looking back at the full picture of the region in the past years, we cannot fail to be concerned over the simmering risks and challenges to peace and security.

Competition and engagement are by themselves normal facts in the course of cooperation and development. Yet if such competition and engagement embrace calculations only in one’s own interest, without equality, respect of international law and transparency, then strategic trust could in no way be reinforced, and there could be a chance for the rise of division, suspicion and the risk of mutual containment, thus adversely affecting peace, cooperation and development.

The unpredictable developments in the Korean Peninsula; sovereignty and territorial disputes from the East China Sea to the East Sea (South China Sea) that are evolving with much complexity, threatening regional peace and security, firstly maritime security and safety as well as the freedom of navigation, have indeed caused deep concerns to the international community. Somewhere in the region, there have emerged preferences for unilateral might, groundless claims, and actions that run counter to international law and stem from imposition and power politics.

I would like to draw your further attention to the fact that maritime transport and communications are growing in scale and having a much greater significance. It is projected that three fourths of global trade will be made via maritime routes and two thirds of that will be shipped across the East Sea. A single irresponsible action or instigation of conflict could well lead to the interruption of such huge trade flow, thus causing unforeseeable consequences not only to regional economies but also to the entire world.

In the meantime, the threats of religious and ethnic conflicts, egoistic nationalism, secessionism, violence, terrorism, cyber security, etc. are still very much present. Global challenges like climate change, sea level rise, pandemics or water resources and the interests of upstream and downstream riparian countries of shared rivers, etc. have become ever more acute.

We could realize that such challenges and risks of conflict are not to be underestimated. We all understand that if this region falls into instability and especially, armed conflicts, in general there will be neither winner nor loser. Rather, all will lose. Suffice it to say, therefore, that working together to build and reinforce strategic trust for peace, cooperation and prosperity in the region is the shared interest of us allFor Vietnam, strategic trust is perceived, above all, as honesty and sincerity.

Secondly, to build strategic trust, we need to abide ourselves by international law, uphold the responsibilities of nations, especially of major powers, and improve the efficiency of multilateral security cooperation mechanisms.

In the world history, many nations have suffered from irreparable losses when they fell victim to power politics, conflicts and wars. In today’s civilised world, the UN Charter, international law and the universal principles and norms serve as the entire mankind’s common values that must be respected. This also represents the precondition for strategic trust building.

Each state should always be a responsible stakeholder in the pursuit of common peace and security. Countries, either big or small, must build their relations on the basis of equality and mutual respect and at a higher level, on mutual strategic trust. Big states have a greater role to play and can contribute more but they should also shoulder bigger responsibilities in the cultivation and consolidation of such strategic trust. Besides, when it comes to the right voices and beneficial initiatives it does not matter whether they come from big or small countries. The principles of cooperation, equal and open dialogue in ASEAN and other forums advocated by ASEAN as well as this Shangri-La Dialogue are born from and maintained on such mindset.

I fully share the views of H.E. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia who said last year at this forum that small and medium countries could help lock major powers into a durable regional architecture. I also agree with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on what he said in a speech in Beijing last September that a reliable and responsible cooperation between the United States and China would positively contribute to the common interest of the region. We all understand that the Asia-Pacific has sufficient room for all intra- and extra-regional countries to work together and share their interests. The future of the Asia-Pacific has been and will continue to be shaped by the roles and interactions by all countries in the region and the world, particularly by the major powers and certainly, by the indispensable role of ASEAN.

I believe that no regional country would oppose the strategic engagement of extra-regional powers if such engagement aims to enhance cooperation for peace, stability and development. We could expect more in the roles played by major powers, particularly the United States and China, the two powers having the biggest roles in and responsibilities to the future of their own as well as that of the region and the world. What is important is that such expectation should be reinforced by strategic trust and such strategic trust must be reflected by concrete and constructive actions of these nations.

We attach special importance to the roles played by a vigorously rising China and by the United States – a Pacific power. We would expect and support the United States and China once their strategies and actions conform to international law, respect the independence and sovereignty of nations, not only bringing about benefits to them but also contributing genuinely to our common peace, cooperation and prosperity.

What I want to further underline is that the existing regional cooperation mechanisms such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meetings Plus (ADMM+) as well as the Shangri-La Dialogue offer the opportunities to foster multilateral security cooperation and find solutions to the arising challenges. Yet it could be said that what is still missing, or at least still insufficient, is the strategic trust in the implementation of those arrangements. The first and foremost important thing is to build a mutual trust when confronting challenges, impacts of interactions, and enhancing practical cooperation in various areas, and at different levels and layers, both bilateral and multilateral. Once there is sufficient strategic trust, we could advance and expand cooperation and find solutions to any problem, even the most sensitive and difficult one.

Thirdly, when talking about peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific, we cannot help but mention an ASEAN of unity and consensus, playing its central role in many multilateral cooperation forums.

It was hard to believe that a South East Asia once divided and embedded in conflicts during the Cold War could become a community of nations united in diversity and playing a central role in an evolving regional architecture like ASEAN today. The participation of Vietnam in ASEAN in 1995 marked a new era of development in ASEAN towards building a common house for all South East Asian nations true to its name. The success of ASEAN is the fruit of a long persevering process to build trust, nurture the culture of dialogue and cooperation, and cultivate the sense of responsibility to the shared destiny of South East Asian nations.

ASEAN is proud to be an example for the principle of consensus and mutual trust in the making of its own decisions. That principle is the foundation for equality among the member states, whether it is Indonesia with nearly a fourth of a billion people or Brunei Darussalam with less than half a million. That principle also constitutes the foundation for extra-regional countries to place their trust in ASEAN as an ‘honest broker’ in guiding the numerous regional cooperation mechanisms.

With a mindset of shared interests rather than that of a win-lose one, the enlargement of the East Asia Summit (EAS) to include Russia and the United States, the ADMM+ process that was put into reality in Vietnam in 2010, and the success of EAS, ARF and ADMM in the years that follow have further consolidated the ground for a regional architecture in which ASEAN plays the central role, bringing about trust in the multilateral security cooperation in the region.

I also wish to refer to Myanmar as a vivid example of the outcome of the perseverance to dialogue on the basis of building and reinforcing trust, respecting the legitimate interests of each other, which helps open up a bright future not only for Myanmar but also for our whole region.

There have been profound lessons about the fundamental values of ASEAN’s consensus and unity in maintaining equal and mutually beneficial relations with partner countries and maximising its proactive role in handling strategic issues of the region. ASEAN could only be strong and able to build on its role when it is united as one. An ASEAN lacking unity will by itself, lose its stand and will not be in the interest of any country, even ASEAN member states or its partners. We need an ASEAN united and strong, cooperating effectively with all countries to nurture peace and prosperity in the region, not an ASEAN in which member states are forced to take side with one country or the other for the individual benefit of their own in the relations with big powers. We have the responsibility to multiply trust in the settlement of problems, enhance cooperation for mutual benefit, combine harmoniously our national interest with that of other nations and of the whole region.

Vietnam and other ASEAN members always desire that other countries, particularly the major powers, support the ASEAN Community’s central role, its principle of consensus and unity.

Back to the issue of the East Sea, ASEAN and China have travelled a long way with no less difficulty to come to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) adopted during the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh in 2002. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the DOC, ASEAN and China have agreed to work towards a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). ASEAN and China need to uphold their responsibilities, mutually reinforce strategic trust, first and foremost by strictly implementing the DOC and doubling efforts to formulate a COC that conforms to international law and in particular, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

We believe that ASEAN and its partners can work together to develop a feasible mechanism that could guarantee maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the region. In so doing, we will not only help ensure maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation, and create conditions for the settlement of disputes but will also assert the fundamental principles in maintaining peace, enhancing development cooperation in the contemporary world.

As for non-traditional security and other challenges including water resources security on the common rivers, by building strategic trust, enhancing cooperation and harmonizing national interests with common interests, I believe that we will able to achieve successes, thus making practical contributions to peace, cooperation and development in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

Throughout her thousands of years of history, Vietnam has suffered numerous pains and losses due to wars. Vietnam always aspires to peace and desires to contribute to the consolidation of peace and enhancement of friendship and development cooperation in the region and the world. To have a genuine and lasting peace, the independence and sovereignty of any country, whether large or small, must be respected; and differences in interests, culture, etc. must be subject to open and constructive dialogues of mutual understanding and mutual respect.

We do not forget the past but need to put it behind to look forward to the future. With the tradition of offering peace and friendship, Vietnam always desires to work with its partners to build and reinforce strategic trust for peace, cooperation and development on the basis of the principle of respect for independence, sovereignty, equality and mutual benefit.

Vietnam consistently persists with the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, multilateralisation and diversification of external relations, being a friend and reliable partner to all nations, and a responsible member of the international community. Vietnam wishes and has spared no efforts to build and deepen strategic partnerships and mutually beneficial cooperative partnerships with other countries. It is also our desire to establish strategic partnerships with all the permanent members of the UN Security Council once the principles of independence, sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of each other, mutual respect, equal and mutually beneficial cooperation are committed and seriously implemented.

At this prestigious forum, I have the honour to inform that Vietnam has decided to participate in UN peacekeeping operations, first in such areas as military engineering, military medicine and military observation.

Vietnam’s defence policy is that of peace and self-defence. Vietnam will not be a military ally to any country and will not allow any country to set up military bases on Vietnamese territory. Vietnam will not ally itself with any country to counter another.

In the past years, sustained high economic growth has enabled Vietnam to increase its national defence budget at a reasonable level but lower than that of economic growth. Vietnam’s army modernisation is only for self-defence and the safeguard of our legitimate interests. It does not, in any way target any other country.

With regard to the present threats and challenges to regional security such as the Korean Peninsula, the East China Sea and the East Sea, etc., Vietnam perseveres to the principle of  peaceful dispute settlement on the basis of international law, respecting the independence, sovereignty and the legitimate interests of each other. All parties concerned need to exercise self-restraint and must not resort to force or threat to use force.

Once again, Vietnam reiterates its consistent compliance with the ASEAN Six-point Statement on the South China Sea and will do its utmost to work together with ASEAN and China to seriously observe the DOC and soon arrive at the COC. As a coastal State, Vietnam reaffirms and defends its legitimate rights and interests in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 UNCLOS.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

Peace, cooperation and development represent the interest, the ardent aspirations and the common future of all countries and peoples.  In the open spirit of the Shangri-La Dialogue, I would call upon you all to join hands and make concrete actions to build and reinforce strategic trust for an Asia-Pacific region of peace, cooperation and prosperity.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

(Original version is available at  VOV)

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