China’s illegal placement of its oil rig Haiyang Shiyou – 981 deep into Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone has raised indignation among domestic and international opinion, including many National Assembly deputies of Vietnam. State President Truong Tan Sang has granted an interview to the Vietnam News Agency on this issue.The following is the full text of the interview:
1. Reporter: Mr. President, please tell us about the current state of Vietnam – China relations after China placed its oil rig Haiyang Shiyou – 981 rig deep into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf?
President Sang: On May 2, China illegally placed its rig deep within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. China has unilaterally violated the high-level bilateral agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related issues and international law, including the United Nations Charter, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).
The Party, State and people of Vietnam always treasure and strive to strengthen the friendship between the people of Vietnam and China. We want to maintain peace and stability for national development, as Vietnam has suffered huge losses and devastation after several decades of wars. At the same time we expect China to do the same.
As I said to voters in Ho Chi Minh City just after the start of the incident, we will not accept it when any country, regardless of how strong it is, forces us to concede the sacred territory and sovereignty of our fatherland. Vietnam has sufficient historical and legal evidence proving our sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos, and the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in line with international law. We are determined to protect every inch of our land or sea from violation. For every Vietnamese, national territorial sovereignty is sacred and sacrosanct.
2. Reporter: How did the Party Central Committee respond to the incident at its recent ninth session?
President Sang: The ninth session of the 11 th Party Central Committee spent considerable time debating this issue. Maintaining a consistent stance, the committee and the Politburo have always affirmed that the territorial sovereignty of the nation, including that of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, is sacred and cannot be conceded. Our Vietnamese people, Party and State have enough will and resolve as well as a sufficient historical and legal basis to fight in safeguarding our national sovereignty. It is unacceptable that strong countries can defy morality and justice. Our people have gone through wars and fought bravely against invaders throughout thousands of years in our history. Following the recent incident, we can see that few countries or international organisations have voiced their support for China’s illegal placement of the rig Haiyang Shiyou – 981 within Vietnam’s waters and its irrational nine-dot territorial claim. Legal and historical evidence shows that justice is on our side. The world community has shown a fairly clear attitude towards this.
3. Reporter: What is your assessment of Vietnamese people’s patriotism and their way to express this in the face of China’s illegal placement of its rig inside our country’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf?
President Sang: Our people have an ardent patriotic tradition. Every time the country’s independence and sovereignty are threatened, Vietnamese people always unite as one to defend the Fatherland.
I am deeply moved by and respect the noble sentiment of our compatriots and comrades. All people as one look towards the East Sea. Fishermen bravely stay on the front line at sea despite the threat and intimidation from Chinese ships, even when one fishing boat was sunk. They stay on the traditional fishing grounds where many generations of ancestors have fished, refusing to yield. Vietnam’s law enforcement forces never give in; they courageously overcome all challenges to carry out their mission of safeguarding the Fatherland’s sacred sovereignty. People throughout the country express their patriotism in various creative ways. Vietnamese all over the world also voice their strong protest against China’s illegal act. We are resolved to defend our sovereignty by peaceful measures on the basis of international law.
However, we should be vigilant against provocative words and acts in the name of patriotism. When the country faces difficulties and challenges, we should unite more than ever. It is obvious that division and provocation cannot help the country overcome challenges.
4.Reporter: Vietnam-China economic ties are an issue of great interest for the public, with many people saying Vietnam might become dependent on China economically. What is your opinion about this?
President Sang: It has been nearly 30 years since our country began the Doi Moi (renewal) policy, and we have been consistent in following deep and wide integration into the world economy while building our own independent and self-reliant economy.
Under this policy, our country has established trade and investment relations with more than 200 countries and territories. We have followed the motto of being a friend and a reliable and responsible partner in the international community, co-existing peacefully with all nations over the world on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. Pursuing the policy of diversifying and multi-lateralising relations with other countries, we always strive for mutual benefit and resolutely avoid becoming dependent on any country both economically or politically.
With this external relation policy, our country has reaped many important achievements, promoting national development and improving the people’s living standards. However, we should frankly admit that this policy has not been carried out well in some fields, thus negatively affecting the economy.
Our economic and trade ties with China have seen a rapid development over recent years, but Vietnam’s trade deficit has been growing, particularly in the import of materials for production. Some of our exports have focused too much on the Chinese market. In the field of bidding for EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction), BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) and equipment supply contracts in a number of important economic sectors such as power, information and telecommunications, Chinese investors won a large number of contracts, but the quality and technology of many such contracts are not high while costs usually inflate and the time of implementation is prolonged. This situation needs to be corrected as early as possible.
5. Reporter: Mr. President, an issue of great public concern is what policy and solutions the Party and State have taken in response to China’s rig, which is still operating illegally inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
President Sang: Immediately after China illegally positioned its rig deep inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, the Party Central Committee and the Politburo promptly drafted out guidelines to deal with the incident. On the one hand, we firmly demand that China remove the rig out of our country’s waters; on the other hand, we patiently try to maintain a peaceful environment for national construction and the friendly neighbourliness with the Chinese people on the basis of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit.
On the basis of the guidelines, relevant agencies of the Party, State, the National Assembly, the Government and the entire political system have joined the fight, conducting the diplomatic struggle both bilaterally and multilaterally, carrying out activities at the site through civilian law enforcement forces; while providing timely, regular and truthful information to help people in the country and over the world have a clear understanding of what is going on. We have always employed peaceful measures while requesting China to show its good will to solve the problem by peaceful means in line with international law and agreements between China and ASEAN, and between China and Vietnam.
Legal measures will be used when necessary to safeguard our country’s sovereignty and territory.
The struggle to defend national independence, sovereignty, national unification and territorial integrity will be long and hard, requiring us to be resolve, and at the same time calm and patience, in order to be successful.
Our Party and State are undertaking policies and measures to meet the just and passionate aspirations of more than 90 million Vietnamese. I would like to quote here the words that King Le Thanh Tong once said to his royal court, which were recorded in Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu (The Complete Annals of Dai Viet): “How can we abandon even a single inch of our mountain, our river? You must firmly stand your ground, not letting them gradually encroach. If they do not listen, we can send our envoys to the north to clarify justice. If you dare to concede even a single inch of the land of our ancestors to the enemy, it will be a crime deserving of death.”