We Have Sovereign Rights Over Our Waters In South China Sea: Vietnamese Envoy

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Temperatures are on the boil in the maritime domain both in the South China Sea as well as the Sea of Japan that lies to its north east. While the Vietnam-China face-off in the energy rich and strategically located South China Sea (SCS) continues, the Sea of Japan too became a flashpoint earlier this week with no less than four nations–South Korea, Russia, Japan and China–involved in a spat. It happened after South Korea accused Russian and Chinese military aircraft of violating its airspace and fired 30 warning shots besides scrambling its jets. The Russian and Chinese aircraft had reportedly flown over the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima islands over which both South Korea and Japan stakes a claim. An angry Tokyo, with its claims on the island, in turn accused Seoul and Moscow of violating its airspace. In the meantime, the sparring between Vietnam and China in the South China Sea shows no signs of abating. Both nations have competing claims in this sea and both claim sovereignty and jurisdiction over it as their naval vessels confront each other in what Vietnam says is its Exclusive Economic Zone. In the first part of this exclusive interview with SNI Deputy Editor Parul Chandra, the Vietnamese ambassador to India Pham Sanh Chau maintains it is his country that has sovereign rights as per UNCLOS. He also says that despite differences over the SCS, Vietnam and China have “good relations”and ties that are evolving in a constructive manner. On the controversial Belt and Road Initiative of China (BRI), the envoy says while Vietnam understands India’s position on it, his country is part of it as it will promote prosperity in the region and beyond.