VietNamNet Bridge – The Vietnamese Government can sue China in the International Court of the Law of the Sea, while the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam) may sue the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) in the civil court of Vietnam. So says Attorney Hoang Ngoc Giao, Director of the Institute for Legal Policy and Development.
Lawyer Hoang Ngoc Giao.
Q: In the past 10 days, despite the objections of the government and people of Vietnam and the condemnation of the international community, Chinese ships and aircraft have continued to attack and intimidate Vietnamese vessels in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Vietnam. What do you think about these actions?
HNG: These actions are not commensurate with a civilized state and a country with international responsibilities such as China, which is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Chinese marine police ships intentionally rammed the vessels of Vietnam’s marine police in the East Sea, but then the Chinese government slandered Vietnam in claiming that our ships repeatedly rammed theirs. This is a deceptive statement. China's actions harassed and threatened maritime security and safety in a manner that is inversely proportional to the stature of China, a country which, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has a responsibility for maintaining world peace.
Q: In addition to diplomatic measures and peaceful demonstrations, what could Vietnam do?
HNG: Given the fact that China has used force to violate the sovereignty and sovereign rights in the continental shelf of Vietnam, we have made diplomatic moves. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called it "dangerous actions" at the 24th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar. However, we have not taken legal actions yet.
Vietnam supports peaceful measures, but this is no longer a matter for negotiation because this is a case about rights and sovereignty over waters that are identified as belonging to Vietnam. China’s misconduct took place repeatedly and seriously. These are clear evidence, not administrative acts like unilaterally declaring an area prohibited from fishing. Vietnam must urgently carry out legal procedures to sue China in the international court.
Q: Which court would handle the lawsuit between Vietnam and China?
HNG: Vietnam may pursue two lawsuits. The first is the lawsuit between countries. The government of Vietnam can sue the Chinese government. Vietnam can set records and procedures prescribed by the International Maritime Law Court to sue China for its infringement of Vietnam in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam. On a broader scale, we can sue China for its violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Islands in the International Court of Justice of the United Nations.
Under the provisions of the International Court of Justice, only when both parties accept the jurisdiction of the court, will the court then consider the case. We can foresee China not accepting the jurisdiction of the Court of International Justice. In that event, the whole world will bear witness to the good will of Vietnam and see more clearly that the claims, arguments and evidence of China are baseless.
The second case is a civil action. The Vietnam Oil and Gas Group may sue the China National Offshore Oil Corporation for causing economic losses to it in Vietnamese court. The Vietnam court has the jurisdiction and even enforcement rights in this case. Chinese oil exploration ships operating in Vietnam’s waters can be seized to ensure the enforcement of the judgment.
Q: What does Vietnam have to do to prepare for the legal war against China?
HNG: The first thing is that we have to collect and prepare records, proof of ownership and sovereignty of Vietnam over the East Sea. To do this task, we not only need a team of experts and good lawyers, but also require financial resources.
Q: What do you think about Vietnam’s ability to win in the case?
HNG: I believe that the confirmation of China’s acts of infringing on the exclusive economic zone, sovereignty and sovereign rights of Vietnam is a sure win. For the sovereignty of the islands, Vietnam can win on the front of law, international convention and historical evidence. We will have recognition of our sovereignty in the international tribunals.
Q: How can Vietnam benefit from taking China to the international court?
HNG: I think that it is completely beneficial for Vietnam. It benefits Vietnam’s diplomatic and legal struggle and it shows the righteousness of the government of Vietnam by working to settle all disputes and conflicts by peaceful means, not by force.
Translated by Tran Cham