Welcome India’s stand on South China Sea, says Vietnam

    By IANS,

    New Delhi : Observing that maritime disputes in the South China Sea had arisen due to one nation’s claim to “80 percent” of the waters, which was “too much”, Vietnam Friday said it welcomes the stand by India on maintaining peace and stability and securing maritime lanes in the sea over which China has shown increasing assertiveness.

    Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, at a talk here Friday, said the situation in the South China Sea was complicated due to the claim over the Paracel and Spratly islands by countries in the region, including China.

    “The claim of one country is too much, covering 80 percent of South China Sea… so the dispute arose,” he said at a talk at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).

    He said the 10-member ASEAN grouping favoured freedom of navigation and rights over their economic zones. He said ASEAN and China are holding official negotiations on a Code of Conduct for maritime rights in the South China Sea.

    “We must respect international law and the UN law of the sea,” he said.

    “In this we regard we appreciate the stand of India in maintaining peace and securing maritime lanes,” the Vietnamese minister said, referring to the speech by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in Brunei earlier this month at the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum meeting.

    Khurshid had stressed the need to “reaffirm the importance of unimpeded right of passage and other maritime rights in accordance with accepted principles of international law… these principles should be respected by all”.

    “Khurshid rejected the use of force and we welcome the stand by India,” said Pham Binh Minh.

    On Thursday, Pham Binh Minh had said India was welcome to explore for oil and gas in its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. China has not been happy about India’s ONGC Videsh exploring for oil and gas in the sea.

    The Vietnamese minister also said Friday that with greater connectivity and economic linkages, “Asia and Pacific and South Asia could be inter-linked into what is the called Indo-Pacific”.

    The greater linkages of South Asia with East Asia and the Pacific “reflect the idea that we all share a common prosperity, our destinies are intertwined and ASEAN plays a crucial role as a bridge linking the regions”.

    Asserting that ASEAN, especially Vietnam, “holds India is great value”, the Vietnamese minister described India as an economic powerhouse and appreciated India’s role as a key player in the region.

    Direct flights between Vietnam and India would take place in November, which would boost tourism and people-to-people contact between their two countries, he said.