Opening remarks of 4th International Workshop on the South China Sea

Tuesday, 20 November 2012 03:14 vuquangtiep


(Ho Chi Minh City, 19-21 November 2012)



Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

     On behalf of the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam and the Viet Nam Lawyers’Association, I wish to extend a warm welcome and sincere thanks to all of you who have come to participate in the FourthInternational Workshop on “The South China Sea: Cooperation for Regional Security and Development” in Viet Nam.

     Slightly unlike previous ones, this year’s workshop comes against the background of the international community celebrating the 30th anniversary of the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and 10th anniversary of the Declaration of Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). At this point in time, the ASEAN Leaders and their dialogue partners are meeting in Phnom Penh to discuss many strategic issues related to regional security and development, among which the issue of South China Sea is likely to be high on the agenda.


Distinguished Guests,

     Another year has passed since the Third International Workshop on the South China Sea held in Ha Noi. The regional seascape has witnessed many increasingly complicated developments. We have several times held our breath when following escalating tensions on the brink of conflict. We have also reconsidered assessments, predictions and recommendations put forward at the previous workshops.  

     Mounting tension in the South China Sea has as a matter of fact eroded the trust though negligible but takes decades of efforts by relevant parties to forge. Eroded trust in its turn creates a breeding ground for mistrust, which benefits nobody, whosoever.

     Remarkably, tension is on the rise in the year when we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the conclusion of the UNCLOS and 10th anniversary of the DOC, in which ASEAN and China solemnly announcetheir joint commitment to promote cooperation and confidence building measures while refraining from further complicating the situation in the South China Sea. It should be noted that all claimants are also the parties to the two important politico-legal documents which lay the very foundation for dispute management and conflict prevention in this area.  

     Over the past year, we have seen relentless efforts of the claimants and non-claimants in preventing conflicts and promoting cooperation for the sake of enduring peace in the South China Sea. Recognizing the importance of full implementation of the DOC, ASEAN and China have agreed to start working on a Code of Conduct (COC). Even when tensionsreached its peak in the South China Sea, diplomatic collaboration among the claimants and between ASEAN and China remained undisrupted. At many workshops and formal meetings of ASEAN and between ASEAN and dialogue partners, the South China Sea and the maintenance of peace, stability and development in the area constitute an important and widely concerned topic which is discussed in a more straightforward and substantive manner on the basis of respect for international law and transparency for the sake of relevant parties and shared interests of the entire international community.

     With a view to contributing to those joint efforts, through publishing research findings and publicizing their opinions, experts and scholars on the South China Sea, many of whom are present here at the workshop, have helped raise public awareness of the nature of disputes and tensions, and provide inputs for policymakers to carefully weigh their national interests before making decisions related to the South China Sea. In recent years, particularly since 2009, the number of research projects and publications/articles by international scholars on the South China Sea as well as the number of academic exchanges in the form of roundtables and workshops has been on the rise.


Distinguished Guests,

     I keep wondering if there exists a paradox that the more efforts made by all parties and circles, the more tension on the South China Sea; or if our efforts have not been strong enough and up to the complexity of the lingering disputes as well as of the recent geo-strategic changes in the region. South China Sea is harboring some of the most complex disputes in the world. This complexity is being multiplied by the rapid changes in the domestic politics of many countries, as well as the economic, political, military and security developments in the region. In addition to traditional security challenges like disputes over islands and maritime areas, we are witnessing the aggravation of non-traditional threats like sea piracy, degradation of the marine environment and fishery resources and climate change.

     Yet, the more complex the situation, the more efforts we must deliver to find more effective ways to translate our research and policy recommendations into reality.


Distinguished guests,

     Building on the outcomes of the previous three workshops, our gathering here over the next few days will be a purely scientific forum with the following consistent objectives:

     First, share our research and discuss from international law and international relations perspectives the importance of the South China Sea, the interests of parties concerned and the recent developments in the South China Sea, especially over the past year.

     Second, make recommendations to governments directly involved in the disputes as well as other concerned parties with the aim of strengthening cooperation, prevent and control conflicts and manage crises in the South China Sea.

     Third, propose channels and ways for academic researches and deliberations to impact more positively on the public and aid policymakers in making their decisions on issues related to the South China Sea.


Distinguished participants,

     In the spirit of candidness, objectivity and constructiveness, this Workshop is expected to be an intellectual feast of world leading scholars and researchers on South China Sea issues and to contribute to the current discourse so that when we meet next year, we can celebrate the setting up of more cooperative mechanisms and the consolidated confidence among parties involved, thus making the South China Sea more secure, peaceful and prosperous.

     As such, our Workshop will be a practical way to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the UNCLOS and the 10th anniversary of the DOC.

    On that note, I would like to declare open the Fourth International Workshop on “South China Sea: Cooperation for Regional Security and Development”.

     I wish you all the best of health and wish the Workshop great success.

Thank you.

East Sea (South China Sea) Studies

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