Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.
Reporter: Could you clarify the purpose and significance of the Vietnam Maritime Law?
Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh: As a coastal country, Vietnam acceded to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1994. However, the country has yet enacted any law of the sea except some provisions in a few relating legal documents.
The adoption of the Vietnam Maritime Law by the National Assembly is an important law-making step to perfect the country’s legal framework to serve the utilization, management and protection of Vietnam’s sea and islands as well as the development of sea-born economy, so as to facilitate its international integration and boost its cooperation with other countries for the sake of peace and stability in the region and the world over
With such adoption, for the first time, our country has a law which fully covers the legal status of sea and islands under Vietnam’s sovereignty and sovereign rights in accordance with the UNCLOS. This is the important legal basis for the management, protection and development of our country’s sea-born economy.
Having the long coastline and vast sea areas, sea-born economy takes a very important role in our country’s national construction and development. The building and promulgation of the Vietnam Maritime Law is the inevitable requirement for Vietnam’s economic development cause.
Reporter: Could you recapitulate the building process and major content of the Vietnam Maritime Law?
Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh: The process of building the Vietnam Maritime Law started from 1998 and it was considered in the past three working session of the National Assembly tenures 10, 11 and 12. The Vietnam Maritime Law incorporates large content having relations with various fields, thus requiring careful and thorough preparation. The Law was developed on the basis of the country’s Constitution, the National Assembly’s Resolution on ratification of the UNCLOS, statements of the Government in 1977 and 1982, summarization of our country’s sea management and of the implementation of the UNCLOS, and inked sea-related agreements. During the development process of the Vietnam Maritime Law, we had learned experience from other countries and took into account of the interests of our country, the interests of concerned parties in the East Sea and the interests of the region as a whole.
The law has seven chapters, focusing on the followings: principles and policies for management and protection of our sea and islands; scope and legal status of internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf; legal status of Vietnam’s islands and archipelagos; activities within the Vietnam’s sea; search and rescue; protection of resources and marine environment; scientific research; sea-born economic development; patrol activities at sea; international marine cooperation.
Reporter: Under the current provisions, many ministries and agencies exercise management of sea and islands. So, does the Vietnam Maritime Law stipulate the functions and missions of ministries and agencies in managing sea and islands.
Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh: State management over sea and islands is a broad field as it relates to the functions of several ministries, agencies and localities across the country. At present, the scale, competence as well as coordination mechanism of ministries, agencies and other forces are specifically stipulated in relevant legal documents and put under the unified regulation of the Government.
The Vietnam Maritime Law is a framework law which covers major principles for sea-related issues, thus the functions of each ministry and agency are not specifically stipulated here. The law stipulates that the Government exercises unified management over sea and islands. Ministries, agencies and localities exercise such management in their own authorized areas.
Reporter: how about sovereignty and sovereign rights over sea and islands?
Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh: In accordance with the provisions of the UNCLOS, the Vietnam Maritime Law clearly states that Vietnam’ sea includes internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. Vietnam exercises sovereignty over its internal waters and territorial sea; exercises national sovereign rights and jurisdiction over exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Vietnam’s sovereignty over islands, including Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos had already been stipulated in existing laws like the 2003 Law on National Border, continues to be clarified in the Vietnam Maritime Law.
The Vietnam Maritime Law clearly states that every organization and individual shall have to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and interests of Vietnam, to comply with Vietnam’s legal regulations while conducting activities in our country’s sea areas. All violations relevant to Vietnam’s sea and islands shall be fined in line with concerned provisions.
Reporter: Our country still has some divergences and disputes over sea and islands with some of the neighboring countries. How is the issue mentioned in the Vietnam Maritime Law?
Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh: The Vietnam Maritime Law clearly stipulates that the State of Vietnam is resolved to settle sea-related divergences and disputes with other countries through peaceful measures, on the basis of respecting national independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and in accordance with the UNCLOS, international legal status and practices.
This is our country’s consistent guideline. We have been and will be keen on implementing the guideline. In fact, we have made some progress in settling disputes with neighboring countries. For example, in 1997, Vietnam and Thailand delimited exclusive economic zone and continental shelf; in 2000, Vietnam and China fixed territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the Gulf of Tonkin; in 2003, Vietnam and Indonesia demarcated continental shelf, etc.
I think that thanks to the adoption of the Vietnam Maritime Law by the National Assembly, we have sent an important message to the international community: Vietnam is a responsible member of the international community that respects and observes international law, especially the UNCLOS, striving for peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world.
The Vietnam Maritime Law, consisting of seven chapters, 55 articles, will take effect from January 1, 2013.
Chapter 1 covers provisions relating to scope and definitions.
Chapter 2 refers to provisions on Vietnam’s baseline, internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf, islands and archipelagos, etc.
Chapter 3 covers provisions on activities within Vietnam’s sea.
Chapter 4 covers the development of sea-born economy.
Chapter 5 includes provisions on sea patrol.
Chapter 6 stipulates the settlement of violations.