DA NANG: Vietnam and regional countries should raise world alarm about China’s nine-dash claim to much of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), retired French general Daniel Schaeffer told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos here.
Schaeffer, an expert on Chinese issues at France’s Asia Research Center, said China wanted to seize more sea within the U-shaped line claim it had marked out and then force other countries in the region to recognize the claim.
“Vietnam and regional countries should drum up the world community about China’s claim,” he added.
“It needs efforts to delete the claim before solving any disputes of sovereignty. The best way of solving the problem is by raising international alarm,” Schaeffer said.
He warned that China was mounting a worldwide communication campaign to back its claim.
Professor Renato De Castro from the International Studies Department at De La Salle University in the Philippines said China had never given an explanation of its nine-dash line.
He noted that global opinion played an important role in dealing with legal territorial disputes and required China respect the international law.
Jerome Cohen, professor and co-director of US-Asia Law Institute, said Vietnam should use adjudication to challenge China’s claims to sovereignty over the Paracel islands.
He said unless the parties agreed on another impartial institution, Vietnam would have to go before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“China will surely not consent to an ICJ effort, since unlike the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos 1982) situation, China had no treaty commitment to accept ICJ jurisdiction in any dispute. Yet Vietnam may nevertheless find it worthwhile to try to invoke the aid of the ICJ, not only placate domestic opinion but also to demonstrate to the world its sincere desire for a peaceful impartial settlement,” Cohen added.
“Vietnam should make plain its willingness to submit to the ICJ its territorial claim over the Spratlys, including those islands and other features that it currently occupies. We have long known that many disputes relating to the South China Sea are far too complex to allow for simple solutions. At least several methods of dispute resolution will be necessary for dealing with different times, places and issues.
“In principle, of course, negotiation, whether multilateral or bilateral, remains preeminent. Yet, as it is obvious to all, negotiation has its limits and often needs to be supplemented,” Cohen said.
“I plead for the disputing countries to give higher priority to the role international adjudication and arbitration may play in the settlement process.
“China and Vietnam have successfully negotiated boundary disputes in the Gulf of Tonkin and on their land border, but China maintains that sovereignty over the maritime features is not open for discussion.”
Cohen also noted that Vietnam has several choices to resolve the sea dispute — the Law of the sea system, ICJ, International Court of Arbitration or regional institutions.
“Asian countries could make their own institution to settle disputes in the region,” he suggested.
Erik Franckx, research professor from Vrije University in Brussels, Belgium, agreed that Vietnam could take China to court for a clear definition of the nine-dash line.
The Philippines filed a case challenging Beijing’s claim at a UN arbitral tribunal but China refused to participate.
The conference, which was organized by Da Nang University and Quang Ngai-based Pham Van Dong University, is being attended by 100 scholars and lawyers from the US, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Taipei, the Philippines, India, South Korea and Japan and overseas Vietnamese and Vietnamese historical researchers.
The rector at Pham Van Dong University, Pham Dang Phuoc, said the conference was held to discuss China’s illegal placement of an oil rig in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf last May 2.
Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang has called China’s actions “unacceptable.”
”It is unacceptable that strong countries can defy morality and justice. Our people have gone through wars and fought bravely against invaders for thousands of years. Following the recent incident, few countries or international organizations have voiced support for China’s action in setting the rig in Vietnam’s waters and its irrational nine-dot territorial claim,” he pointed out. “Legal and historical evidence shows that justice is on our side. The world community has a fairly clear attitude toward this.”