Vietnam has once again stated that it respects the freedom of navigation which is stipulated in international conventions after two US naval vessels sailed across the South China Sea.
US destroyers at South China Sea. Photo: US Navy
"We reckon that all countries have the rights to benefit the free sea and air navigation which are in line with international laws," Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang said at a press meeting earlier this week when she was asked about the sailing of guided-missile destroyers USS Preble and USS Chung-Hoon within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the disputed sea.
"Vietnam hopes that all the countries would make substantive contributions to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region as well abide by the laws on seas and oceans," Hang added.
She also noted that Vietnam’s jurisdiction over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes in the South China Sea is undeniable.
The US destroyers’ presence in the South China Sea earlier this week was intended to assert international rights to “innocent passage” and “challenge excessive maritime claims,” Bloomberg quoted Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet.
In 2018, Washington conducted five publicly reported trips to exercise freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs).
“All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Doss said.
In response to the move, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs later said that the country’s navy “identified and warned off” the vessels, Spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
The disputed South China Sea is one of several potential strategic flash points between China and the US where tensions have flared during the ongoing trade war.
But Doss affirmed that “FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”