Updated on : Chủ Nhật, 28/07/2019 - 11:42 SA
VN actively joins negotiation process, seriously enforces UNCLOS
VGP – As a coastal country with the coastline of more than 3,260km and hundreds of islands of various sides, including the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos, indeed, Viet Nam has many sea-related interests.

      >>> All countries share common interests, responsibilities in East Sea

Fully aware of the importance of the sea, Viet Nam actively joined the process of negotiations on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and has made great endevors in implementing the UNCLOS. The country has always upheld the principles and goals of the UNCLOS while taking practical actions to contribute to the implementation of the UNCLOS.

Prior to the UNCLOS, Viet Nam had actively utlized related regulations of the international law to develop domestic legal documents on sea. In 1977, Viet Nam issued the Declaration of the Government on Viet Nam’s sea, which declares its 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The Declaration was issued as the UNCLOS was being negotiated and it was supported by the majorities of countries at the 3rd United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, reflecting Viet Nam’s contributions to the codification of international law. With this Declaration, Viet Nam together with Kenya, Myanmar, Cu Ba, Yemen, Dominica, Guatemala, India , Pakistan, Mexico, Seychelles were considered among the pioneering countries in making “exclusive economic zone” the customary international law and later became a key content of the UNCLOS.

Viet Nam was among 107 countries signing the UNCLOS in Montego Bay, Jamaica right after the UNCLOS was open for signature and was among the first countries ratifying the UNCLOS before it took effect. This demonstrates the good will and expectation of Viet Nam in a new legal order on the seas and the oceans.

On June 23, 1994, the National Assembly of Viet Nam issued a Resolution approving the UNCLOS, in which the Resolution affirms Viet Nam’s sovereignty over its internal waters, territorial sea as well as its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the contiguous sea, exclusive economiz zone, and continental shelf on the basis of the provisions of the UNCLOS and the rules of internatonal law, demanding other countries to respect Viet Nam’s aforesaid rights. At the same time, the Resolution also affirms Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos and its position to settle disputes and other differences related to the East Sea through peaceful talks under the spirit of equality, mutual understanding and mutual respect, and respet for interantional law, especially the UNCLOS.

In 2019 marks the 25th anniverary of the official entry into force of the UNCLOS and the 25th anniversary of Viet Nam’s ratification of the UNCLOS.

Besides the UNCLOS, Viet Nam also acceded to the UNCLOS-related agreements, including the 1994 Agreement on the implementation of the Part XI of the Convention and the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement.

As a member of the UNCLOS, Viet Nam shall be entitled to have 12-mile territorial sea, 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf of at least 200 miles. Under the provisions of the UNCLOS, Viet Nam shall be entitled to rights and benefits over total area of waters and continental shelf of nearly one million square meters. To exercise the obligtations and goodwill of a signatory of the UNCLOS, Viet Nam has always respected and fully implemented its obligations defined by the UNCLOS, gradually improved national legal system; applied the provisions of the UNCLOS in identifying its waters, in delimitation of maritime boundaries with the neighboring countries, in management and use of its sea, in cooperation with other countries in line with the provisions of the UNCLOS in the direction of sustainable preservation and use of marine resources in favor of sustainable development.

In accordance with the provisions of the UNCLOS, Viet Nam approved the Law on Vietnamese Sea in 2012 for synchronous management of planning, using, exploring and exploiting marine resources and for management of its waters, continental shelf and islands as well as for settlement of disputes between Viet Nam and neighboring countries. This is considered the important step forwards to translating the provisions of the UNCLOS into domestic legislation, creating favorable conditions for synchronous management of waters and marine economic development. Together with the approval of the Law of the Sea, the National Assembly of Viet Nam also approved the Viet Nam Maritime Code in 2015, which came into effect since July 1, 2017 and promulgate a series of other sea-related legal documents like the Law on natural resources and environment of sea and islands (2015), Law on Environmental Protection (2014), Law on National Border (2003), Decree No. 143/2017/ND-CP dated December 14, 2017 of the Government on protection of maritime works, and Decree No. 71/2015/ND-CP dated September 3, 2015 of the Government on management of activities of persons and vehicles in maritime boundary areas.

Based on the cosistent guideline of using peaceful measures in resolution of sea-related disputes and differences, Viet Nam has made great deal of efforts in effective application of the UNCLOS in delimitation of marine boundary with neighboring countries, in which the principle of equality has always been upheld to reach reasonable solutions, specifically: Viet Nam and Thailand signed the Agreement settling the maritime boundary between the two countries in the Gulf of Thailand on August 9, 1997; Viet Nam and China signed the Agreement on the Delimitation of the Tonkin Gulf and the Fisheries Cooperation Agreement on December 25, 2000; Viet Nam and Indonesia signed the Agreement on delimitation of continental shelf on June 26, 2003. The negotiation and signing of the above agreements manifest the creative utilization of the provisions of the UNCLOS, contributing to enriching international law on maritime boundary delimitation. On the basis of the provisions of the UNCLOS, Viet Nam has accelerated negotiations on delimitation and cooperation for mutual development in area off mouth of Tonkin Gulf with China; negotiations on delimitation of exclusive economic zone with Indonesia; and negotiations on sea-related issues with other neighboring countries.

On the other hand, Viet Nam has been proactively protected international law, including the UNCLOS. Accordingly, Viet Nam has been consistently demanded respect for international law and the UNCLOS in talks on disputes in the East Sea, considering it as a principle to settle and resolve sea-related disputes. Viet Nam has made efforts in incorporating this principle in ASEAN documents, including the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), ASEAN Six-point Principles on the East Sea, and the draft Code of Conduct in the East Sea Negotiating Text (Viet Nam and other countries agreed on the principle to use UNCLOS in the process of COC negotiations. Thanks to Viet Nam’s efforts, such contents like international law, UNCLOS for long-term resolution of disputes in the East Sea were incorporated in the Agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related isses signed between Viet Nam and China on November 10, 2011. It means that Viet Nam has not only been proactively implemented the provisions of the UNCLOS seriously but also tried to accelerate the respect and full implementation of the UNCLOS.

One of the key guidelines is that marine economic development shall be associated with social development, protection of resources and environment, adaptation to climate change, ensuring national defense and security, and interantional maritime cooperation. Based on the provisions of the UNCLOS, Viet Nam has efectively deployed marine economic development activities in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf within its 200 nautical miles in favor of national development. Viet Nam has also been proactive in fostering coopeation with relevant parties in environmental protection, rescue and natural disaster prevention and control and has deployed measures to combat crime, contributing to the full implementaiton of the UNCLOS. On October 22, 2018, the 12th Communist Party of Viet Nam Central Committee adopted the Resolution No. 36-NQ/TW on the strategy for the sustainable development of Viet Nam's marine economy by 2030, with a vision to 2045, which reflects the great determination of the Party and State in pursuing marine economic development with a view to turn Viet Nam into a strong marine country.

Viet Nam has also actively taken part in activities within the international mechanisms established in accordance with the UNCLOS. Viet Nam was elected as Vice President of the Assemby of the International Seabed Authority and Member of the Council of the International Seabed Authority. Viet Nam has fully participated in all annual conferences of the UNCLOS member countries at the Untied Nations General Assembly and made positive contributions to foster the effective implementation of the UNCLOS; participated in and made positive contributions to the conferences held by the International Seabed Authority; supported acceleration of activities of the Commisssion on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) and stronger role of the Internatonal Tribunal for the Law of the Sea; and payments of yearly dues to the above organizations to ensure their effective operations. At the relevant forums, Viet Nam has always affirmed that all countries must comply with the provisions of the UNCLOS and fully exercise rights and obligations in accordance with the UNCLOS.

Annually, Viet Nam actively participated in discussions and supported the United Nations General Assembly to adopt Resolutions on “Oceans and the Law of the Sea”. During the past year, Viet Nam has joined the talks process of drafting legal instruments on Biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) under the UNCLOS.

In addition, Viet Nam has also participated in developing international and –inter-regional sea-related mechanisms and legal documents such as the Convention on the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT), the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), joining the Conventions of the International Maritime Organization ect,. In regional level, Viet Nam has inked a number of agreements within ASEAN cooperation framework like ASEAN Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Goods in Transit (1998) and ASEAN Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Inter-state Transport (2012).

They are the vivid evidence proving the goodwill, proactiveness, determination and real commitments of the Government of Viet Nam to respect and implement the provisions of the UNCLOS while demonstrating the efforts and consistent positions of Viet Nam in settling sea-related disputes and differences via peaceful means in accordance with international law, including the UNCLOS in order to boost cooperation with other countries and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Viet Nam in the East Sea.

In the current context of complicated disputes in the East Sea, the respect and full compliance with the UNCLOS are increasingly important to maintain peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the region. First of all, countries must respect the rule of law in all seas and oceans, respect diplomatic and legal processes as well as ongoing negotation processes, avoid acts that may erode or undermine the role of the UNCLOS. All maritime claims must be based on the provisions of the UNCLOS without imposing unreasonable claims that are not accordance with the UNCLOS. Once differences emerge in explanation and implementation of the UNCLOS, relevant countries need to stick to talks to handle through peaceful means in line with international law, including the UNCLOS. Pending resolution of disputes, relevant sides must respect and fully implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, exercise self-refraint, avoid taking unilateral actions that may further complicate the situation and intensify disputes, engage in constructive talks in order to soon reach a Code of Conduct in the East Sea that is effective and practical in line with the provisions of the UNCLOS.

The UNCLOS plays an inevitably important part of the current international law as it is the solid legal foundation to identify rights and obligations of countries and to address issues related to the seas and the oceans.

As coastal country, Viet Nam has been on the forefront and made tireless efforts to implement the UNLCOS.

UNCLOS at a glance

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was adopted on April 30, 1982 after 9 years of negotiations, becoming a new legal document for sea and oceans.

It is considered the “constitution of the oceans” and represents the result of an unprecedented, and so far never replicated, effort at codification and progressive development of international law.

The more than 400 articles of the text and of the nine annexes that are an integral part of it are the most extensive and detailed product of codification activity States have ever attempted and successfully concluded under the aegis of the United Nations.

The convention was opened for signature at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 10 December 1982. It entered into force on 14 November 1994 and is presently binding for 154 States, as well as the European Community (as of 24 July 2008).

The Convention has 320 articles, set out in seventeen parts, as well as nine annexes.

Parts II to XI concern the different maritime zones: territorial sea and contiguous zone, straits used for international navigation, archipelagic waters, the exclusive economic zone, the continental shelf, the high seas, the International Seabed Area, and special provisions on the regime of islands and of enclosed and semi-enclosed seas.

Parts XII to XIV concern specific marine activities and questions in all areas: the protection of the environment, marine scientific research, and the development and transfer of marine technology.

Part XV (and annexes 5 to 8) concerns the settlement of disputes while Parts XVI and XVII set out general and final clauses./.

By Quang Minh

Editor-in-chief: Vi Quang Dao
License No. 137/GP-BTTTT dated on April 21, 2014
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