Beijing – The one who is playing victim game

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Beijing The one who is playing victim gameOn August 4, 2020, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) ran an article titled “The situation of Vietnamese Fishing Vessels’ Illegal Activities in the South China Sea” on Wechat. The article provides data of 702 Vietnamese fishing vessels that entered China’s close waters in July 2020, of which 91 fishing vessels operated “illegally” in China’s internal and territorial waters, a sharp increase compared to the 75 ships in June 2020.

It is ridiculous to look at the title of the post because it is the thieves that are shouting. The whole world knows that China is using its fishing vessels as a third force to carry out intrusion, violate the waters of neighboring countries, and carry out the plot of monopolization of the South China Sea. More than that, even in the East China Sea, Chinese fishing vessels also constantly encroach on the Japan’s waters and are chased away by Japan Coast Guard.

First of all, it must be underlined that China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis and have been rejected internationally. The July 12, 2016 Ruling completely rejects China’s claim on “historic rights” or the “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea. In the notes verbale battle started by Malaysia in December 2019, the South China Sea coastal countries i.e. Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia all sent notes to the United Nations to reject China’s claims in the South China Sea.

In particular, the US and Australia also sent diplomatic notes to the United Nations rejecting China’s claims and emphasizing that China's activities in the South China Sea are illegal. Next, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also issued a Statement on July 13, 2020, further specifying the US position against China’s irrational claims in the South China Sea and condemning China’s acts of intimidation and bully. At the end of July 2020, the US and Australia issued a Joint Statement rebuffing China’s claims and urging China to comply with the Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration’s award on 12/7/2016. In its note, Australia even rejected China’s claim to sovereignty over the Paracel Islands.

These points show that China absolutely has no sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and therefore, they have no right to say that the operation of Vietnamese fishing vessels in the South China Sea is “illegal” and that Vietnamese fishing vessels “violate Chinese waters”. The concept of “violating Chinese waters in the South China Sea” that China introduced itself does not exist in reality because their claims over those waters in the South China Sea are illegal.

The Wechat story reminds us of the new Chinese regulation on coastal waters in the “Technical Rules for Inspection of Ships in Domestic Routes”. According to it, Beijing turns the waters of the Paracel Islands into “coastal waters” of China, replacing the previous phrase “offshore waters”. Beijing has apparently, calculated a series of comprehensive activities to turn the waters of the South China Sea into China’s waters, considering the South China Sea as its “home pond”.

With this defiantly disregard of international law, it is easy to see why China says Vietnamese fishing vessels operate in “Chinese internal waters and territorial waters”. Beijing’s plot is to use its propaganda machinery with the Wechat story and the like to gradually legalize its irrational claims in the South China Sea.

The Wechat story also shows the following points:

First, China is strongly condemned in the notes verbale battle on the South China Sea and is acting alone and condemned by public opinion for disregard of the law. Therefore, they need to spread such information to fool the public. China generated data itself through to the so-called “automatic identification system (AIS) data” in order to show to the public that this is an objective figure. However, irrespective of whatever tricks used by the Chinese media, it cannot cheat the world public or conceal Beijing’s aggressive behavior. For that reason, China has always been condemned by the international community as an aggressor and one that disregard international law .

Second, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, Vietnam still achieves positive results, including in the South China Sea issue. Despite the many difficulties due to the Covid-19, Vietnam has successfully hosted online meetings and thanks to Vietnam’s role, ASEAN shows greater solidarity and consensus on the South China Sea issue and affirms that the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is the basis for the settlement of disputes in the South China Sea in the Chairman’s Statement of the 36th ASEAN Summit. The article on Wechat is a blatant slander to undermine the prestige and role of Vietnam in ASEAN.

Third, the article gives data showing that Vietnamese fishing vessels “intrude the waters” of Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, or even enter the “internal waters” of Malaysia; falsely accuses them of “taking advantage of law enforcement loopholes in the bordering areas” between these countries to divide Vietnam with ASEAN countries to create disunity. Beijing does not feel ashamed with such false accusation when it is their own fishing vessels that are violating the waters of other countries. For instance, they have let their Coast Guard ships to escort their fishing vessels intruding in the waters of Indonesia at the end of 2019 and early 2020, forcing the Indonesian Foreign Minister to summon Chinese Ambassador in Jakarta to protest and the Indonesian President himself had to visit Natuna Islands to affirm his determination to protect Indonesian waters.

Fourth, while China is increasingly losing its credibility with Europeans due to its behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic, the relationship between Vietnam and the EU s is getting closer. The free trade agreement between Vietnam and the EU came into force since August 1, 2020, and further angers Beijing. China fabricated that Vietnamese fishing vessels’ activities were “IUU fishing (illegal, undeclared, unregulated)” and the article even accused Vietnam of “tolerating” this activity is to divide Vietnam and EU, affecting the EU’s import of Vietnamese seafood because the EU always upholds the rule of law in sea-related matters, including fishing activity. Beijing truly deserves being a true boat rocker.

Fifth, the article clearly shows that Beijing’s rulers are resentful of the strong developments in US-Vietnam relations. They falsely accused Vietnam of "giving the right of law enforcement at sea” to the US when signing the Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation on Fisheries Law Enforcement. First of all, it is necessary to say that the Vietnam-US relationship is based on equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit and non-damage to any party. Cooperation between Vietnam and the US in capacity building in law enforcement at sea, including in the fisheries sector, is normal.

Beijing also regularly mobilizes a large number of fishing vessels to intrude the waters of neighboring countries to turn them from completely undisputed waters into disputed ones, realizing its ambition to dominate and monopolize the South China Sea. The law enforcement forces at sea of Vietnam and other South China Sea coastal countries are still weak, so it is necessary for them, including Vietnam, to cooperate with other countries in the field of law enforcement at sea to protect their own seas. The United States or any other country that supports the South China Sea coastal countries to improve their maritime law enforcement capacity is much welcomed.

While the Sino-US relationship is at its lowest level in more than 40 years since the establishment of their diplomatic relations in 1979 and on the edge of a new cold war, the US-Vietnam relationship is thriving and enters into deeper depth. While publicly criticizing and condemning China, US President Donald Trump praised Vietnam, causing Beijing became even more irritated.

The Wechat story clearly shows that Beijing is using Wechat as a tool to carry out dark schemes from slandering, dividing to internal intruding, provoking, threatening other countries. Therefore, US President Donald Trump’s recent order to ban Wechat in the US is understandable because Mr. Trump wants to prevent its poisons from spreading within the US, and interfering with the US internal affair… Mr. Donald Trump was wise to make this decision and Wechat must accept this “bitter fruit” which it deserves because it has become a tool for Beijing to carry out political and territorial plots.