Vietnamese Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh has stressed all disputes in the East Sea must be settled through peaceful means and in line with international law.
General Thanh reiterated Vietnam's stance on the issue in an interview granted to a Washington-based VOV correspondent after attending the first ASEAN-US defence forum in Hawaii.
Following are excerpts from the interview.
VOV: How did Vietnam view this forum, the first of its kind hosted by the US?
Gen. Thanh: This was the first time the US Secretary of Defence (Chuck Hagel) has invited the Defence Ministers of ASEAN member states and the ASEAN Secretary-General for high level discussions on non-traditional security cooperation, as well as defence cooperation between ASEAN and the US.
This was a forum between ASEAN and the US only, unlike previous forums that gathered either ASEAN member states or ASEAN plus dialogue partners.
Attending this event, ASEAN wants to maintain its central role in increasing cooperation with its partners. It is not a tool for provoking face-to-face confrontation or sowing division among countries no matter how large or small the countries are.
|Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh said East Sea disputes need to be settled peacefully|
Gen. Thanh: I think the event created a necessary forum for defence ministers from ASEAN member states and the US to examine cooperation in non-traditional security and national defence, as well as in search and rescue in the event of natural disasters.
The Vietnamese delegation asked the US to increase information sharing and technical assistance for ASEAN member states to enhance their disaster response and relief capabilities.
For example, Vietnam and other countries provided immediate assistance for the Philippines after super typhoon Haiyan swept across this island nation late year.
Recently Vietnam deployed 11 planes and 10 ships of different kinds, together with thousands of its fishing vessels, to search for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane MH370. It also permitted five countries to deploy planes and ships to enter its territorial waters and air spare to join in an international search operation.
Such cooperation is necessary, because natural disasters and aviation incidents cannot be dealt with by a country itself.
VOV: East Sea disputes have recently captured great international attention. How were they examined at this forum?
Gen. Thanh: This is a pressing issue in the region. Sovereign disputes in the East Sea have been discussed at ASEAN summits and conferences, including those between the defence ministers.
At this forum, participating delegates stressed the need to maintain peace, stability, maritime and aviation security and safety in the East Sea, as well as creating a favourable environment for fishermen to fish in their country's territorial waters.
They held that all disputes must be settled through peaceful means, in respect for and in line with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the ASEAN six-point principles, and the ASEAN Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC). That is in keeping with the status quo, and not expanding the disputed area.
ASEAN and China need to formulate a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC), and Vietnam is actively involved in this process. Vietnam and the Philippines will hold an exchange for their soldiers garrisoned on Song Tu Dong and Song Tu Tay islands on June 8 in an effort to build up confidence, prevent conflicts and reduce tension.
I think these are peaceful measures to realize high-level regional agreements, aiming to maintain peace, stability and cooperation and development in the region.
ASEAN countries held that not only the US, but China and other powers have great interests in the East Sea which sees the bustling operation of at least 200 large-size container ships, hundreds of flights over its skies, and thousands of fishing vessels every day, let alone tourism activities and scientific research.
The US also has interests in the East Sea, and in its Asian pivot strategy the US will have to take part in economic, investment and trade activities in the region, while playing an active role in maintaining peace, stability, aviation and maritime security and freedom there.
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