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Sunday, November 14, 2021, 12:08 (GMT+7)
Several solutions for the defence of seas and islands in the new situation

Firmly protecting national sovereignty over seas and islands is responsibility of the entire Party, Military, and people; it is also an important factor in the country’s sustainable development. Amidst the complex, unpredictable developments in the world and the region, it is necessary to further improve national strength and build a solid posture of all-people national defence at sea in order to safeguard national sovereignty over seas and islands.

Maritime security represents a matter of utmost importance to Vietnam as a coastal nation; it also greatly impacts on the development of the country’s marine economy, national defence and security, and the protection of a peaceful environment as well. However, territorial disputes and non-traditional security challenges, such as terrorism, piracy, smuggling, fishing dispute, and environmental pollution caused by the exploitation of marine natural resources have been increasingly complicated and unpredictable.

Four major issues relating to Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea have yet to be resolved, namely national sovereignty over Hoang Sa, settlement of disputes over Truong Sa between 5 countries and 6 parties, delimitation of seas under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982, and identification of boundaries outside the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. In addition, detriments to stability in the East Sea, such as violation of national sovereignty and security, risk of armed conflicts, and dispute over seas, islands, and continental shelf are still intense. According to the 13th National Party Congress, we shall “resolutely, persistently fight to firmly protect the country’s independence, sovereignty, unification, territorial integrity, airspace, waters, peace, and stability for development.” Under that spirit, it is necessary to well implement several main solutions as follows.

First, develop and realise the strategy for the marine economic development in a comprehensive, focalised manner to quickly turn our country into a maritime powerhouse of the region in tandem with defence and security consolidation and international integration. According to the Party’s Resolution 36-NQ/TW, dated October 22nd, 2018 on the Strategy for the development of Vietnam’s marine economy towards 2030, with a vision towards 2045, “Vietnam must become a strong and rich country based on the sea; it must develop marine economy sustainably in association with ensuring national defence and security, maintaining independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.” In order to utilise the sea’s potential for economic development, align marine economic development with national defence and security, and firmly protect seas and islands, it is important to reorganise fishing industry, reduce fishing near the coast, step up fishing far from the coast, promote sustainable aquaculture and fishing, enhance the protection and reproduction of aquatic resources and marine environment, and strictly prohibit any destructive fishing method.

It is essential to quickly develop a number of coastal economic and industrial zones, with priority given to energy industry, shipbuilding, aquaculture, and high-quality seafood processing. Due attention should be paid to accelerating the building of strong coastal economic centres in line with the development of services, export, tourism, fisheries logistics, petroleum industry, and shipping. Besides, economic development on islands should be facilitated, while scientific researches, explorations, and fishing activities at sea should be promoted in line with safeguarding national independence, sovereignty, unification, and territorial integrity, maintaining political security and social order and safety, expanding diplomatic ties, and raising Vietnam’s status in the international arena. Due regard should be paid to investing more resources in natural disaster prevention and control and marine environment protection.

Second, build comprehensively strong forces in charge of managing and defending seas and islands. Making forces in charge of managing seas, islands, and marine economic activities, particularly the Navy, the Vietnam Coast Guard (VCG), the Border Guard Force (BGF), the Coastal Militia and Self-Defence Force, and the Fisheries Resources Surveillance Force strong and capable of fulfilling their assigned task is a matter of urgency today. In this regard, priority should be given to modernising the Vietnam People’s Navy and developing a preferential treatment policy for its affiliates in charge of patrolling the seas and islands far from the coast. Due regard should be paid to consolidating the organisational structure of the VCG and providing modern equipment for this force so that it could well maintain law enforcement at sea in both long and short term. Investments should be placed on ensuring technical equipment and vehicles for the BGF to perform its tasks of maintaining security and safety, conducting search and rescue operations, and combating smuggling and social evils at sea. The Coastal Militia and Self-Defence Force should be made strong and extensive. It is necessary to establish coastal militia and self-defence units amongst every group of fishing vessels at sea and citizens on islands, with state-owned enterprises and cooperatives playing a core role in accordance with each locality’s characteristics. Moreover, the Fisheries Resources Surveillance Force should be closely organised to well perform its roles in preventing and handling foreign vessels’ offences, giving assistance to fishermen, and protecting national sovereignty over seas and islands.

Third, resolutely, persistently resolve disputes over seas and islands by peaceful means and on the basis of international law. As a member of the United Nations, the UNCLOS of 1982, and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), Vietnam has always conformed to international law to persistently solve differences by peaceful means and on the basis of equality and mutual respect. It has also sought basic, long-term solutions to issues via negotiations for all relevant parties’ legitimate benefits, for its national independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity as well as for regional and global peace and stability. Under that spirit, bilateral disputes should be resolved by bilateral solutions, while multilateral disputes should be handled between all relevant parties in an extremely open, transparent manner. In the settlement of issues in the East Sea, it is vital to persistently, resolutely protect our legitimate interests at sea, work towards long-term solutions, call for relevant parties’ self-restraint, and avoid complicating the situation, using or threatening to use force. Relevant parties should be committed to dealing with disputes by peaceful means and on the basis of international law, the UNCLOS of 1982, and 5 principles of peaceful coexistence. More effort should be invested in building trust, maintaining multilateral cooperation in maritime security, scientific research, and crime combat, strictly observing the DOC, and working towards the Code of Conduct (COC) so that the East Sea will be a sea of peace, stability, friendship, cooperation, and development. Within Vietnam’s sovereign waters, Vietnam is allowed to adopt necessary measures in accordance with the UNCLOS of 1982 to protect its rights and legitimate benefits.

Fourth, well carry out the work of military diplomacy. As a matter of importance, the work of military diplomacy is conducted mainly in peacetime and even in wartime. The good performance of this work will contribute to firmly protecting national independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in the East Sea and maintaining domestic politico-social stability and a favourable international environment for the country’s economic development. To well conduct the work of military diplomacy when our country is more widely and deeply integrating into the world, it is essential to maintain close cooperation in all fields and particularly a combination of national defence, national security, and diplomacy. Competent offices, especially the Ministry of National Defence, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should design and complete regulations on coordination, particularly in undertaking strategic researches into global, regional situations, the developments of international relations, and our partners and opponents. They shall give advice to the Party and the State on strategies to successfully deal with issues on national defence, national security, and diplomacy. Due attention should be paid to fostering defence cooperation with all countries, especially regional ones and major powers to increase mutual understanding and trust. The Navy and the VCG shall enhance joint patrols, exercises, and search and rescue operations at sea to contribute to maintaining peace and stability and eliminating all risks of conflict at sea.

Fifth, enhance the work of propagation relating to sacred national sovereignty over seas and islands. To that end, units of the Navy, the VCG, and the BGF stationed in coastal localities and on islands should closely cooperate with localities and propaganda agencies in developing plans for training rapporteurs, designing and releasing documents of propagation for people from all walks of life, particularly for citizens in the coastal areas and on islands, fishermen at sea, and Vietnamese expatriates. Currently, there should be close coordination between ministries, sectors, localities, and press agencies under central competent offices’ focalised, uniformed direction to carry out the work of propagation concerning national sovereignty over seas and islands. More importantly, great value should be attached to providing timely, transparent, accurate information for all people in our country and around the world to understand Vietnam’s legal basis and historical evidence for the country’s national sovereignty over seas and islands in the East Sea and our Party and State’s viewpoints on settling disputes at sea so as to build up the people’s faith and determination and take advantage of support of the international community for the defence of our seas, islands, and maritime economic activities.

In addition to propagation relating to seas and islands, it is important to well conduct the work of legal propagation, dissemination, and education to render fishermen fully aware of Vietnam’s law and international law, especially the UNCLOS of 1982. Last but not least, due attention should be paid to including issues on border, territory, seas, and islands in both universal and tertiary education programmes and widely propagate our sovereignty at sea amongst Vietnamese citizens and in the international community.

Sr. Col., Associate Prof., D.Sc. NGUYEN THANH LONG, National Defence Academy

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