VietNamNet Bridge – “China is big but it is not really strong. Power countries always have their weak points. If we are firm, they will retreat. If we retreat, they will march forward. ‘Bullying the weak and being concessive to the firm’ is always China’s policy. People called the Binh Minh 02 incident, a test for that reason. It depends on our behavior whether we’ll have other Binh Minh 02 cases or not,” said Major-general Le Van Cuong, former chief of the Ministry of Public Security’s Strategy Institute; in an interview with VietNamNet.
Intentional and systematic activities
The position where the cable of Vietnam’s ship was snipped by Chinese patrol ships
Major-general Le Van Cuong: The public has been stirred up by China’s intrusion into Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone on May 26. Three Chinese patrol ships broke into Vietnam’s territorial waters, snipped cable of a Vietnamese oil exploration ship, but China slandered Vietnam to create an incident and make tension in the East Sea.
It is clear that the position where three Chinese ships cut cables of Vietnam’s ship is only 120 miles from Dai Lanh Cape of Vietnam’s Phu Yen province, and up to 500 miles from China’s Hainan Island.
This position is deep inside Vietnam’s exclusion economic zone and continental shelf. This area doesn’t belong to any overlap area with China’s exclusion economic zone and continental shelf.
Under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Vietnam has the right of sovereignty and jurisdiction over this area. China and other countries have the right to go through this area but they don’t have the right to explore natural resources and intervene in Vietnam’s exploration activities.
Therefore, the action of the three Chinese patrol ships (actually reformed military ships) is a violation to international laws, specifically the UNCLOS, which China is also a member.
This act also violates the UN Charters, the five principles of peaceful co-existence, which were initiated by China, and the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (DOC), signed between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2002, as well as widely-recognized international conventions that China has joined.
Moreover, this is an intentional action of China. It is noted that these patrol ships were previously military ships. This is also not a single action, but a systematical action in China’s East Sea strategy to turn the East Sea into its pond.
This action has exposed China’s intention. China has broken its commitments. Its actions are contrary to its statements.
Say one thing and do another
VietNamNet: Could you make clear this point?
Major-general Le Van Cuong: China signed the UNCLOS and joined the DOC. The three Chinese patrol ships’ acts were contrary to these commitments.
Last October, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao sent a telegram to his ASEAN counterparts to commit that China wants to create a peaceful and cooperative waters. However, China’s actions are different. It says one thing and does another.
Even the statements made by Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Jiang Yu, also shows the inconsistence. In the fifth meeting of the working group on the East Sea situation between ASEAN and China in China’s Kunming on December 21-23, 2010, Jiang Yu stated that China always highly respects and seriously implements its commitments to strengthen political trust, facilitate dispute settlement and together maintain peace and stability in the East Sea.
Meanwhile, the three Chinese patrol ships’ intrusion of Vietnam’s territory, Jiang Yu stated that it was “completely justified”. The statements of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson are inconsistent.
In the past eight years, China always emphasized the “peaceful development” policy but its recent intrusion in Vietnam’s sea has shown Vietnam, the region and the world that instability is coming from this country.
From its statements to its actions, China contradicts itself. Who in this world can trust China, an emerging power?
The Binh Minh 02 case reminded us about the Philippine’s costly lesson in its agreement on the seismic survey signed with China, through which China has turned the Philippines’ waters without dispute, into the waters with dispute.
A month before the Binh Minh 02 incident happened, Vietnamese experts warned this risk at the second seminar on the East Sea. And now it happens?
The intrusion and provoking act of China’s patrol ships into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf is China’s tactic to mislead the world, and gradually turn the waters that completely belongs to Vietnam’s right of sovereignty and jurisdiction into the waters of dispute.
This act is compared to a malevolent man who comes to the garden of his neighbor to chop up trees and pick up fruits and then asks for trouble to turn that garden into the garden of conflict.
Bully the weak and concessive to the firm
VietNamNet: Before the Binh Minh 02 incident, Chinese leaders made many visits to member countries of ASEAN and the US. Some question it seems that China has “wheeled and dealed” with other countries in this matter. What is your opinion?
Major-general Le Van Cuong: We don’t exclude that China had prepared in terms of public opinion before making the incident. It is also possible that China intentionally did it to mislead the possibility that it has reached compromise with other countries to isolate Vietnam. We need to keep a close watch on the situation and the subsequent moves of the related parties to know it.
Actually, other countries make decisions based on their interests. Vietnam cannot blame them. If Vietnam shows a clear and firm attitude to defend their interest, whether they will go away?
Moreover, Vietnam cannot expect from the outsiders. We have to rely on ourselves. If we are firm, they will retreat. If we retreat, they will march forward. That is the rule of relationships.
In 1956 when China attacked islands to the east of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago, the Southern Vietnam government didn’t strongly strike back, and China occupied this area. In 1958, China attacked again, Ngo Dinh Diem administration fought back, China quietly withdrew.
We need to understand that China is big but it is not really strong. Strong countries have their weak points. The Binh Minh 02 incident is called “a test” for that reason. It depends on our behavior in having other Binh Minh 02 incidents or not.
VietNamNet: What should Vietnam do in this situation, in your view?
The Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson has made necessary statements but they are not enough. The country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity is the supreme and immutable. All slogans and policies for any bilateral relations are changeable, which are valid for certain times, not perpetual. Nobody has the right to bargain their country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. State-level competent agencies must do more.
Specifically, they have to tell the Vietnamese, Chinese people and the world what did China violate and to which level Vietnam’s independence and sovereignty.
At the same time, Vietnam needs to promote exchange and negotiation with China on friendly relations between the two countries. I believe that 1.3 billion Chinese are friendly people who want to have good relations with Vietnam. I also believe that most of Chinese leaders have goodwill with Vietnam. This act is only the policy of some Chinese leaders who follow the expansion policy.
We need to inform Chinese people about their government’s act. Chinese are provided with false news about the East Sea. We have to wake them up and when they know the truth, I believe that they will have necessary and sound actions.
Vietnam can also and needs to inform international organizations in which it is a member, including the UN, about China’s intrusion to call for international support.
Vietnam also needs to strengthen its armed forces and promote a sea economy to deter anyone who intends to violate Vietnam’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Finally and most importantly, we have to make social unity and people’s truth. That’s the decisive strength to defend our country.
Phuong Loan - TVN