UNCLOS makes for calm seas

December 17, 2012 | 16:07
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Marking the 30th anniversary of the signing of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on December 10, Vietnam has circulated, at the United Nations, a report on the implementation of the UNCLOS as a responsible party of the convention.

Following is the kernel of the report provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The UNCLOS was adopted 30 years ago in Montego Bay, Jamaica, marking an enormous success of the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea. To date, 164 states are party to the UNCLOS.

Since its entry into force on 16 November 1994, the UNCLOS has become an important legal basis for regulating maritime issues as well as an important legal instrument for settling and dealing with sea-related disputes.

Aware of the significance of the sea, Vietnam has actively participated in the process of UNCLOS negotiations and made considerable efforts in implementing the convention. It always upholds the purposes and objectives of the UNCLOS.

In conformity with the progressive trend of international maritime law, Vietnam promulgated “Declaration on the Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf” in 1977 establishing the exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles, extending the rights of Vietnam to the sea, not just confined to the right to fishing rights, but also other sovereign rights and jurisdiction. With this declaration, Vietnam together with many states were the pioneering states in developing the concept of exclusive economic zone, contributing to the development and consolidation of the practice of states, which later on became an important institution of the UNCLOS.

Vietnam was among 107 states signing the convention. Its National Assembly ratified the convention on 23 June 1994, before the convention entered into force.  Paragraph 1 of the Ratification Resolution made it clear that “the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, by ratifying the UNCLOS, expresses its determination to join the international community in the establishment of an equitable legal order and in the promotion of maritime development and cooperation.”

This resolution reaffirmed Vietnam’s sovereignty over its internal waters, territorial sea, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf based on the provisions of the UNCLOS and principles of international law, and called on other countries to respect the above-mentioned rights of Vietnam.

On  June 21,  2012, the National Assembly adopted the Vietnam Law of the Sea, which was developed on the basis of the provisions of the UNCLOS with references to international and state practice. This law includes seven chapters with 55 articles, covering principles of management and use of the sea, scope and regime of internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf, regime of islands, archipelagoes, and many other activities in the Vietnamese sea areas. With this law, Vietnam harmonises its sea-related laws with the provisions of the UNCLOS. Vietnam’s policy to settle the sea and insular disputes through peaceful means on the basis of the international law and the UNCLOS is a clear statement that Vietnam is a responsible member of the international community, respects and complies with international law, including the UNCLOS.

Earlier, the National Assembly also adopted a series of relevant laws, like Vietnamese Maritime Code (2005), Petroleum Law (1993), Water Resources (1998), Environmental Protection (1993), National Border (2003), Fishery (2004) and some ordinances and decrees.

On the basis of the consistent policy to settle through peaceful means sea-related disputes and disagreements, Vietnam has made significant efforts in effectively applying the UNCLOS to settle disputes related to maritime delimitation with neighbouring countries in accordance with the principle of equity in order to reach an acceptable solution. For instance, Vietnam are currently involved in negotiations for delimitation of the area outside the mouth of Tonkin Gulf with China, negotiations for the delimitation of exclusive economic zone with Indonesia and will conduct negotiations on sea-related issues with other neighbouring countries.

Vietnam firmly support the principle of “respect for international law, including the UNCLOS”, which is viewed as a primary principle for settling and dealing with insular and maritime disputes. Vietnam has managed to incorporate this principle into the Documents of ASEAN, including the Declaration on the Conducts of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea on July 20, 2012. With Vietnam’s efforts, the principle “on the basis of international law, UNCLOS to find a long-term, fundamental solution to disputes in the South China Sea” has been incorporated into the Agreement on Basic Principles Guiding the Settlement of Maritime Issues between Vietnam and China signed on October  11, 2011. This testifies to the fact that Vietnam not only strictly observes the provisions of the UNCLOS but also promotes the respect for and full implementation of the contents of the Convention.

In summary, over the past 30 years, Vietnam has always taken active role and made continuous efforts in observing and implementing the UNCLOS in its integrity. Vietnam has fully abided by and will continue to act in accordance with the purposes and objectives and provisions of the UNCLOS, and urge other countries to take the same course of action.


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