Last update 7/2/2011 8:00:00 AM (GMT+7)

Vietnamese scholar speaks about the East Sea on Chinese TV

VietNamNet Bridge – In the interview on a Chinese television channel, Dr. Vu Cao Phan, a researcher of Vietnam-China relationships and Vice Chair of the Vietnam-China Friendship Association, said that Vietnamese leaders’ speeches are a self-defense reaction, not threats of war. He believed that the East Sea disputes would be settled peacefully.

Below is the contents of Dr.Phan’s interview with Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV as the scientific advisor of the Institute for Chinese Studies (Institute for Social Sciences of Vietnam), which part of it was broadcast to over 150 countries on June 25.

What attitude does Vietnam show through its tough expression in the South China Sea (East Sea) recently?

It is inaccurate to assess Vietnam’s reaction and attitude if you only look at recent incidents. We should look broader and farer.

In recent years, more and more Vietnamese fishing fishes were seized by China; Vietnamese fishermen’s fishing equipment was confiscated and they had to pay ransom. For example, last year dozens of fishing boats and hundreds of fishermen in central Vietnam were captured. This has been traditional and peaceful fishing ground of Vietnamese fishermen and now many incidents occurred for them.

The Vietnamese public was very unpleasant to see hundreds of people who are relatives of captured fishermen sat on the coast to cry and wait for their husbands and their sons to return on a TV reportage (perhaps Chinese friends did not know about this).

The Vietnamese authorities talked with their Chinese counterparts about this but that matter is almost not solved. This time China made stronger moves, so Vietnam’s reaction must be stronger. It is not unusual.

In that situation, I think Vietnamese leaders’ statements are only self-defense reactions, not threats of war as you think. If Chinese people feel it’s abnormal, perhaps you did not know about the previous incidents as I have just mentioned.

If you consider it as escalation, you should know that Vietnam only escalates after China. It is true that China always escalates first.

In you opinion, the South China Sea disputes will be settled by force or negotiation?

In Vietnam, such a question is almost never been raised. When I said “almost”, it means that not to have such question. Though Vietnam had to face many wars in over half of the last century, but not many people think of a China-Vietnam war at this moment because of islands in the East Sea (China calls South China Sea).

Personally, I think the disputes will be solved peacefully because firstly, the two governments always commit to settle these disputes not by force by through diplomatic channels and negotiation.

Secondly, both countries are trying to develop their economies after many years of destruction by the Cultural Revolution in China and the war in Vietnam. The two sides have achieved satisfactory results and no one of them wants their development to be held back again by war.

Thirdly, the context of the modern world, I mean mature international public, would strongly contribute to prevent such a possibility.

Fourthly, which is also very important; if the two governments have a little fever, the sense and sentiment of the both peoples would help them awake. I believe that. I would like to ask you that you do not want to have a war, don’t you?

However, minor clashes may occur.

The nature of the disputes between China and Vietnam, in you opinion, is economic or sovereignty issue? How does Vietnam see the principle “putting aside conflicts to exploring together”?

This is an interesting question. The incidents in the East Sea show both economic and sovereignty disputes. Objectively, China seems to be inclined to economic reasons while Vietnam is more inclined to sovereignty. If we see it that way, we can explain why Vietnam is not Source: interested in “putting aside conflicts to exploring together” in the East Sea. Let’s analyze why. This is my personal idea only.

The first reason is natural resources are limited. Once they are exhausted, what will happen? Related to it is the second reason: ““putting aside conflicts to exploring together” as you have said is only half of the recommendation by Mr. Deng Xiaoping “Our sovereignty, putting aside disputes, exploring together”, is that correct? It means that once natural resources are exhausted, Vietnam has nothing and China still has the basics – “sovereignty”! These islands and those waters are not only valuable in terms of natural resources.

I support the two countries to explore natural resources in the East Sea together, but at least we have to make clear the sovereignty to a certain level (if not completely).

That is my answer for your question “what is the nature of the China-Vietnam disputes, economics or sovereignty”. But If I’m allowed to develop it further, I can say that the nature of the disputes is politics.

The Vietnam-China relations have not been quiet for tens of years and it is a nearly constant flow, before the sea disputes appear in recent years, is it true? To solve it, leaders need to sit together, at the highest level, in an equal, strait and sincere manner. It is a thorny issue. It is uneasy to face the truth but it will become easy with good will to have the real sustainability for the friendship between Vietnam and China.

What will be the future of the China-Vietnam relations? How to maintain the friendship between the two countries?

I’ve worked for years at the Vietnam-China Friendship Association. I have many close relations with China and sincerely, I love China, I admire China and I may even say that I’m intimidated with China.

Therefore, my permanent wish is how to build a good, really good relations between the two people--and you too, I think. But there are many tasks to do. There are some that we have to restart.

First of all, as I have said, we have to sit together. Some told me that we have sat together for a long time already. No, that way is not okay yet. Sitting that way is not sitting straight.

I would like to tell you my confidence:

The first is bilateral negotiation between the two countries. I think bilateral negotiation is good and necessary. Multilateral negotiation is needed for the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands, but it is different for the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands, which is the issue between Vietnam and China. However, your government declared that Hoang Sa belongs to China and it is not the matter for negotiation. So what is for “bilateral negotiation”? That statement has closed the door for “bilateral negotiation”.

The dispute over Paracel Islands is similar to the conflict for the Diaoyu Islands between China and Japan, in which China’s position is completely the same with Vietnam’s in the Paracel disputes. Does China have two standards for disputes of the same nature?

Secondly, we often say about cultural similarity between the two countries as an advantage for living in friendship between the two nations. It is partly true but Vietnamese culture, especially the culture of behavior of Vietnamese is greatly different from China. If Chinese are strong, definitive and decisive (may lead to imposition), being inclined to sense, Vietnamese are gentle, tolerant, being inclined to sentiment. They remember someone’s favor a very long time and quickly forget animosity. It seems that Chinese friends don’t understand this yet. You need to understand it so the relations would be easy.

I would like to cite an example. The events in Nanching, Qiqishibian which happened over 70 years ago but whenever having problems with Japan; Chinese parade and demonstrate to remind these events and to show their hatred. Vietnamese don’t.

Japanese fascism contributed to the famine that killed millions of Vietnamese in 1945 and in the Vietnam War (1965-1975), American and South Korean people made a lot of crimes against Vietnamese people. But after the war, American and Korean soldiers who returned to Vietnam were very surprised to see friendly smiles of Vietnamese people.

Perhaps thanks to this attitude and behavior of Vietnamese, the US, Japan, South Korea have become big economic and trade partner as well as the leading aid providers for Vietnam after the war?

I have to say so, because as I see that China’s heavy behavior against Vietnam has been pushing Vietnamese who love China very much far from you, not Vietnam trying to seek evil alliances against China.

One more example…we can now understand the nature of the incident (or maybe called the war) in February 1979. Vietnamese want to forget and they are always hospitable and sincere. On the contrary, Chinese mention this event very often. You know, in 2009, I did not mind that what year was. I only knew that it was the 30th year since 1979, when I read your newspapers. Not only in February but throughout the year 2009, Chinese newspapers wrote about this event. Hundreds of articles were published. I only wanted to cry when I read articles on the Internet, with merciless words. Let’s forget it…

Thirdly, the relations between our countries must become special because we have cultural, historical similarity and we are neighbors who cannot be apart, who have been together in misfortune (I was a soldier in the war and I can’t forget the whole-hearted assistance of Chinese people). Both our countries are opening the door for reform and economic development. These reasons are more than enough for our relations to be uncommon and special.

Moreover, the two countries have another similarity: the similar political institution and ideology, which are often mentioned.

But personally, I think that we don’t need to emphasize this similarity. It exists as a condition, a reason, which we don’t need to emphasize like the way the two countries have done. As you know, there are still clashes and wars between countries of the same ideology for national interests. Actually, national interest is higher than ideology. We should frankly recognize it to not delude each other.

Moreover, I suppose that one day, one of the two countries will have another political institution… what will happen? Will we need to maintain neighborliness? Yes, we will. So…

I’m willing to do anything with you to make the two nations to further understand each other and to be closer. Thank you the Phoenix TV to give me this interview!