A Chinese Coast Guard ship crashed and nearly sank a Vietnamese fishing boat on June 10 in the disputed Hoang Sa (Paracels), leading to protests from the Vietnam Fisheries Association.
Just two days after the incident, the director of a Chinese research institute on the East Sea (South China Sea) wrote to a research project at Peking University that there would be consequences if Vietnam takes action in suing the South China Sea in international court of arbitration.
Vietnamese newspapers on June 14 quoted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hanoi as saying that a Chinese iron ship and a canoe hit and struck a fishing boat from Quang Ngai province on June 10, nearby Linh Con island in the Hoang Sa (Paracels).
Vietnamese fishing vessels were “at risk of sinking” and their 16 crew members fell into the sea due to the stabs from Chinese ships, according to VNExpress, Tuoi Tre, Suc khoe & Doi song (Health and Life) newspapers.
Particularly Suc khoe & Doi song newspaper specifically stated that “Chinese Coast Guard force” has “rammed, looted fishing assets of Quang Ngai fishermen,” causing damage of about VND 500 million ($21,300).
VNExpress and Tuoi Tre said that on the same day of the incident, two units of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, the Consular Department and the Embassy in Beijing, “exchanged” with the Chinese side, “affirmed the Vietnam ‘s sovereignty in the Paracels,” and requested the Chinese side to investigate and verify incident information and notify Vietnam of the results for further coordination and settlement.
The news of VNExpress and Tuoi Tre did not say whether the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs would issue any condemnation or protest against China about the incident.
The two media outlets reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “asked” Vietnamese authorities “to take necessary measures” with the Chinese side soon to protect the legitimate rights and interests of fishermen.
On June 12, the fishing vessel in distress arrived in Quang Ngai, according to VNExpress and Tuoi Tre news.
Meanwhile, the Suc khoe & Doi song news said on June 13 that the Vietnam Fisheries Association “condemns and opposes the inhumane act” mentioned above of China.
The association also “asked” Vietnamese authorities to “vehemently oppose” the Chinese side to immediately stop such aforementioned obstructions and attacks in territorial waters of Vietnam. At the same time, “asking” China to pay damages to Vietnamese fishermen.
Both Vietnam and China claim sovereignty over the Paracels, but in fact, China has taken control of most of these islands from the Republic of Vietnam since the beginning of 1974. The Socialist Republic Vietnam does not currently hold any entity there.
Two days after the Vietnam fishing boat incident was hit by a Chinese Coast Guard, a Chinese scholar stated on June 12 that Vietnam could receive some consequences if it sues China for in international arbitration regarding the South China Sea.
According to VOA’s research, Dr. Wu Shicun, director of China’s National Institute on South China Sea Studies, provided an opinion in the article for the “South China Sea Strategic Situation Initiative” program at the Institute of Ocean Studies at Peking University.
Vietnam has any motivation to sue?
In an English-language article entitled, “Does Vietnam have to think twice before filing a lawsuit on South China Sea)?” The director hypothesized that if Vietnam sues China it will do like the Philippines did.
In July 2016, after reviewing Manila’s lawsuit against China’s claim to the South China Sea, an international arbitration tribunal ruled against China’s nine-segment map in the South China Sea.
Although the arbitral tribunal’s ruling does not have any enforcement mechanism attached, many international and Vietnamese legal experts still consider it a historic victory, not only for the plaintiff, but also for other countries having claims in the South China Sea, including Vietnam.
Dr. Wu Shicun, the Director of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said that there could be four reasons that Vietnam considers to proceed to sue China, according to this scholar’s article that VOA read.
The first reason, according to Wu, is that Vietnam may want to make the occupation of islands and reefs in the Spratly Islands permanent, and thus undermine territorial sovereignty and claims about China’s maritime rights.
Secondly, Vietnam believes that such arbitration tribunal will provide a basis for countering China’s actions, as well as a foundation for the international community to assist Vietnam, Wu said.
The third reason is that Vietnam may try to worsen China’s image, making it considered to “bully” weaker countries and disrespect international law, in order to put China at a disadvantage. According to Ngo, this Vietnamese calculation is also consistent with the US strategic approach to contain China.
Finally, it is likely that Vietnam expects the potential outcome of arbitral tribunal arbitration to delay negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC), opening many opportunities for Vietnam. maximizing its interests in the region, Wu wrote.
However, this Chinese scholar said that if Vietnam will sue China, it would be “unwise” and Vietnam “would have to pay.”
China will be tough in Truong Sa (Spratlys) and Vanguard Bank:
“If Vietnam recklessly dares to file a case in arbitration, I believe China will not sit still,” Wu said.
Next, this scholar listed the response actions China can take, in which, leading China to publish baselines showing China’s territorial waters in the Spratlys, which they call Nansha.
Second, China can act tougher and more forcefully suppress Vietnamese fishermen fishing that Beijing calls “illegal” in the waters of the Paracel, which China calls Xisha, still according to Wu.
In addition to the latest collision on June 10 at the beginning of the news, China has repeatedly sunk or arrested and fined Vietnamese ships in this sea in recent years.
Another countermeasure from Beijing if Hanoi sues, according to the Chinese researcher, was that the 1.4 billion-people country “could halt and halt” Vietnam’s militarization of the islands and reefs which are under Vietnam’s control.
Director Wu sketched out some tactical actions such as “blocking the road and chasing Vietnamese ships into unauthorized waters,” disrupting the supply of logistics for the Vietnamese soldiers stationed on islands and reefs. “Further management and control measures will be implemented if needed,” Dr. Ngo warned.
Finally, Wu said his country could start exploring oil and gas in the Vanguard Bank. “If Vietnam files a lawsuit, China can take this opportunity to go directly to Vanguard Bank without having any legal responsibility to start oil and gas exploration … This will be a breakthrough” for China, the first oil and gas exploration activity in the Nansha region,” wrote Wu.
Concluding the article, Wu affirmed that if Vietnam choses the way of litigation, Hanoi would witness the Sino-Vietnamese relationship being backward and “paying dearly” for Chinese response measures.
“Vietnam should think twice before filing a lawsuit,” emphasized Wu.
In consultation with researchers, VOA learned that in China under the sole leadership of the communist party, the opinion of Wu cannot be different from that of the party and Chinese state.
Three days after Wu raised a viewpoint containing threatening ideas, by the time this article of VOA was published, the Vietnamese side had no official response yet.