On the sideline of the meeting of the working group on preparation for the upcoming summit of Asian sea police forces in Hanoi on July 7, Lieutenant General Pham Duc Linh had a talk with the media.
The sea police force was established in August 1998, under the management of the Ministry of Defense.
In recent years, Vietnamese fishermen have been harassed and threatened by foreign ships in Vietnam’s waters. How is the responsibility of the sea police force?
We try to be present in Vietnam’s territorial waters, particularly the overlapped, bordering waters, as long as we can. In recent years, Vietnamese sea police force has intensified activities to assure fishermen. If Vietnamese fishermen enter the waters of other countries, we stop them.
However, Vietnam’s waters cover up to 1 million square kilometers while we have limitation in vessels so the sea police force cannot reach remote waters often. Our vessels are not safe in bad weather and inappropriate for long voyages. We can currently meet 30-40 percent of the real requirement.
I think fishermen will only feel safe while catching offshore when countries in the region sign an agreement on fishery cooperation.
The Sea Police Agency is among agencies that implement fishery cooperation with China. How is the cooperation?
The Sea Police Agency, the navy, the border guard force and the Agency for Aquatic Resource Development and Protection are Vietnamese agencies that cooperate with Chinese counterparts in the sea.
Annually, the two countries make a check of the joint fishing ground, during this period both Vietnamese and Chinese are inspected. The cooperation is good in general, contributing to address fishing activities.
We have asked the government’s permission to set a hot line between the sea police agencies of Vietnam and China, firstly in some coastal provinces.
Besides cooperation, how should we prepare facilities to ensure security and order in Vietnam’s waters?
Though Vietnam still faces many financial difficulties, the government attaches importance to the forces that maintain security and safety in the sea.
The sea police force will have ships of over 2,000 tons, which can make 40-day voyages in very bad weather, salvage ships, heliports, medical cabins which can provide first aid to 120 people at the same time and aircrafts to patrol the entire continental shelf of Vietnam in early 2012.
What will the sea police force do to defend Vietnam’s sovereignty if other countries conduct oil and gas exploration and set up oilrigs in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone?
Defending the country’s territorial waters needs the general strength of various forces, not only the sea police. In the sea, all forces that have vessels have to join to defend the country’s sovereignty, including the navy, the sea police and the border guard forces as the core.
Of foreign ships make oil and gas exploration within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf – the areas belong to Vietnam’s sovereignty, we have to defend our sovereignty to the last. This is Vietnam’s territorial waters, not the overlapped area. Vietnam is a member of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 so it will perform its responsibility and observe to the convention and Vietnam asks other countries to do the same.
If any country sets up oilrigs in Vietnam’s waters, they will violate our sovereignty. We are determined to not let it happen. However, Vietnam always obeys the principle on solving all matters based on peace and sovereignty independence. That is Vietnam’s standpoint.