Vietnam, Philippines joining hands against China
MANABU ITO, Nikkei staff writer
HANOI -- Vietnam and the Philippines are starting to solidify an alliance against China to better deal with territorial conflicts in the South China Sea.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will pay an official visit to the Philippines Wednesday to Friday of next week on the invitation of President Benigno Aquino. The timing coincides with the World Economic Forum on East Asia to be held in Manila.
Chinese and Vietnamese vessels have collided over Chinese oil drilling near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by Hanoi. China is also reclaiming land on a reef near the Spratly Islands, which the Philippines lays claim to.
Hanoi and Manila are expected to use the talks to discuss countermeasures against Beijing. The standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese ships has lasted two weeks, with no resolution in sight. Many Vietnamese are calling for the country to sue China under international law.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh has stated that legal measures are one possible avenue toward a peaceful resolution and will be taken if necessary.
Manila has already started down this path. It began seeking arbitration last year under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, holding that China's claim to the entire South China Sea has no legal basis. The case was allowed to go forward without China's consent, and proceedings commenced last July.
The tribunal's decision has no legal force, but it would at least represent the consensus of the international community. China has repeatedly asked for the suit to be withdrawn.
The South China Sea disputes and other regional security issues will be discussed at a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers to be held in Naypyitaw from Monday to Wednesday.
A joint statement issued at a recent Asean summit expressed "serious concerns" over the situation without pointing fingers at China. Vietnam and the Philippines aim to isolate China by bringing other Asean members to their side, but they will likely face opposition from such pro-Chinese nations as Cambodia and Laos.