MANILA – Vietnam expressed its concern over Japan’s ongoing territorial clashes with China and South Korea at last week’s meeting of the ASEAN Maritime Forum in Manila, sources said Saturday.
In a statement at the forum’s opening session Wednesday, Vietnam, which is involved in several sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, described Japan’s recent territorial flareups with China and South Korea as “complicated developments.”
While the statement only mentioned “southeast and northeast parts of the region,” a Vietnamese delegate confirmed later that these include the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by China and Taiwan, and the South Korea-administered Takeshima Islands in the Sea of Japan, which Japan argues are an inherent part of its territory.
“We share the common belief that the parties concerned must, now more than ever, act with restraint and settle their disputes by peaceful means and fully respect international law, especially the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Vietnam told the forum. “The same goes for the South China Sea.”
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, China and Taiwan all have overlapping claims to various islands, reefs and outcroppings in the South China Sea. Over the last few years, both the Philippines and Vietnam have aggressively asserted their territorial claims in the area, particularly against China.
“We must work together so as not to allow disputes and differences to escalate into conflicts, but to ensure their peaceful settlement and to uphold respect for international law and the 1982 U.N. convention, including its provisions related to exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf of coastal states,” Vietnam said.
While China recognizes the provision allowing coastal states to claim a 200 nautical mile economic zone, it argues this does not mean the sovereignty claims of other countries can be disregarded.
Beijing bases its claims mostly on what it claims are historical records.
The ASEAN Maritime Forum was followed by the inaugural meeting of the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum on Friday, which in addition to envoys from the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations, was attended by delegates from China, Japan, the United States, South Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia.
Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio, who chaired both forums, said at the end of the second meeting that the “delegates recognized the importance of universally recognized principles of international law, specifically (the U.N. convention), in providing a rules-based framework for maritime security and cooperation in the region, as well as for addressing conflicting claims.”