China’s “provocative” actions at sea may derail economic growth in the region, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told political and business leaders attending the 23rd World Economic Forum (WEF) in Manila on Thursday.
”Development is not possible without peace and stability,” Dung said as he noted that the disputes over sovereignty have been “evolving with complexity” and “seriously threatening peace and security in the region.”
”At present, over three-fourths of global goods are shipped via maritime transportation, of which two-thirds travel via the East Sea, and a risk of conflict will disrupt these huge flows of goods and have a foreseeable impact on regional and world economies,” he added.
”It might even reverse the trend at global economic recovery,” Dung said.
The Vietnam leader specifically cited the presence of a giant oil rig, which he said China placed deep into Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.
”This gravely violates the international law and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the DOC, to which China is also a signatory,” Dung said.
He added that China’s action has “indirectly threatened peace, stability and maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation and aviation” in the region.
According to Dung, Vietnam has always exercised “utmost restraint” but China ignored all attempts to discuss the issue.
”On the contrary, it has been slandering and blaming Vietnam while continuing to use force and escalate its increasingly adventurous and serious act of intimidation and violation,” he said, adding that its citizens have been outraged by the issue.
”The entire Vietnamese nation has been protesting against China’s wrongdoings. In various colleges in the country, people have spontaneously launched demonstrations, and some more people have become restive and violated the law,” Dung said.
But he also noted that the Vietnamese government “has timely contained the acts of infringement and swiftly punished law violators.”
The Vietnamese leader asked the WEF delegates to support his country in its call for China to follow international law in settling territorial disputes.
”The solidarity and cooperation of the international community, which we hope to continue to receive, and this is essential for preventing acts of international law violation,” he said.
”We hope that you and the World Economic Forum will continue to make positive contribution to the building of an Asia Pacific Region of peace, stability, cooperation and prosperous development,” Dung added.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Asia’s future could go one of two ways.
The first—which he characterized as “a good scenario”—includes China’s rise as “a benign power” similar to the United States and with “a stable strategic environment that will foster regional economic integration.”
But “in a less benign scenario… tremendous growth in China’s power can prove too much for the regional order to accommodate,” Lee said.
Without regional trust “maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas [will]continue to fester [and there will be]tensions between other countries, too, arising from a result of historical issues, territorial disputes, and nationalist populism,” he added.
“Nationalism is a growing force in many Asian countries . . . as we have recently witnessed in anti-China protests in Vietnam.
“In Japan and [South] Korea, the history of the war continues to drive public sentiment toward each other.
“And in China . . . the country’s astonishing progress has aroused strong nationalistic feelings, and in these are to claim China’s rightful place in the sun after more than a century of humiliation,” he added.
This kind of strife will set back Asia’s economic development, Lee said, adding that China needed to be stitched into regional trade networks, including the ongoing talks over a mooted Trance-Pacific Partnership.