The Philippines has been long wooing Vietnam to do just this.
Perhaps China’s aggressive action this year made Hanoi finally make up its mind to join the international suit against its former colonial master China.
Here is a story that my newspaper South China Morning Post has just published on this unprecedented cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam. The two countries do not have a history of cooperation. In fact, Manila sided with the United States during the latter’s war against the communist Vietcong who are now in power.
The decision on the arbitration is expected to be handed down next yet.
China rejects Vietnam claims in arbitration submission over South China Sea dispute
Friday, 12 December, 2014, 12:53pm
Zuraidah Ibrahim and Kristine Kwok
Seeking to protect its own claims, Vietnam has lodged a submission to the international arbitration panel studying the Philippines’ case against China over the South China Sea dispute, but the move has been swiftly rejected by China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei yesterday dismissed the Vietnamese action and described its claims over the Spratleys or Nansha and Paracels – known as Xisha by the Chinese – as “illegal and invalid” and said “China will never accept such a claim”.
The South China Morning Post understands that Vietnam sent a statement to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague last Friday, making three main claims in clear opposition to China’s stand.
First, it stated that it recognised that the court had jurisdiction over the case submitted by the Philippines, in direct contradiction to China’s own recently reiterated position that it had no such authority.
Second, it asked the court to give “due regard” to Vietnam’s legal rights and interests in the Spratleys, Paracels, and in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf when deciding on the merits of the Philippine case.
Finally, it also rejected the Chinese nine-dash line demarcation – the basis of Chinese claims to ownership of the vast spread of the South China Sea – saying that it was “without legal basis”.
On Chinese maps, the nine-dash line takes in about 80 per cent of the 3.5 million square km of the South China Sea.
The PCA has given China until December 15 to respond to the case, but last week China issued a position paper rejecting the Philippines’ claim.
On the Vietnamese submission, Xinhua reported Chinese spokesman Hong as saying: “China urges Vietnam to earnestly respect our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and resolve relevant disputes regarding Nansha with China on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law so as to jointly maintain peace and stability on the South China Sea.”
In its position paper issued last weekend, China said it would “neither accept nor participate in the arbitration” as it believed a UN tribunal had no jurisdiction over a territorial dispute between countries.
Sources told the Post that Vietnam lodged the statement to the courts to protect its own interests, in the event that it might decide to take up the case at a future date.
A source said that the statement lodged at the courts “is as much to protect Vietnamese interests vis-à-vis the Philippines as it is directed against China and tilted slightly in the latter direction”.
Carlyle Thayer, an emeritus professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy, in Canberra, who has studied the South China Sea issue, said that Vietnam’s decision to recognise the PCA’s jurisdiction would “inflame” China.
It opened the door for Vietnam to be involved in the hearing by the PCA to explain its interests and thus “it’s a cheap way of getting into the back door without joining the Philippines’ case”.
By challenging the nine-dash line, he said that Vietnam had put itself in alignment with the United States’ State Department, which recently questioned the legality of China’s claims.