'Only peace matters', says Vietnam as it signals interest in South China Sea talks with Manila

MANILA (Bloomberg): Vietnam offered to have talks with the Philippines about overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea as Manila decries increasingly violent clashes with Chinese vessels in contested waters.

Those recent conflicts may have prompted Vietnam - which also has disputed claims with China and has seen energy developments stall as a result - to reach out to the Philippines. While both nations have overlapping claims in the region, they have not turned violent.

"Vietnam is closely monitoring and deeply concerned” about collisions of Chinese and Philippine vessels, spokesperson Pham Thu Hang said in a statement Friday.

The country called on "relevant parties to exercise maximum restraint, act appropriately in accordance with international law, respect sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the exclusive economic zones and continental shelves of coastal countries,” she said.

While reiterating Vietnam’s claims to the Paracel and Spratly islands - the latter of which China and the Philippines also contest - Hang said in a separate statement that Hanoi is willing to talk with Manila to work toward a solution suitable to both countries’ interests.

The statement came after the Philippines this month asserted its exclusive rights to South China Sea resources off its western coast with an official filing before a United Nations commission.

Vietnam’s outreach marks a contrast with China, which has frequently used coast guard vessels or its "maritime militia” of fishing boats to cordon off access to contested islands and shoals. That has hampered other nations’ abilities to use traditional fishing grounds and develop energy resources in waters far closer to their coastlines than to China’s mainland.

In a June 6 statement, Hang said Vietnam demanded China "end illegal survey activities conducted by the Hai Yang 26 vessel in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.”

China claims the majority of the South China Sea as its territory - an assertion that overlaps with separate claims by Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan as well as the Philippines and Vietnam.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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