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China is justified in lodging strong protests over Vietnam's new law to include China's maritime territories into its "sovereignty" and "jurisdiction". Beijing is justified in considering more aggressive countermeasures, too, if Hanoi refuses to mend its ways.
On Thursday the Vietnamese National Assembly adopted a domestic law of the sea to include China's Xisha and Nansha islands in the South China Sea within Vietnam's sovereignty and jurisdiction. In response, Chinese authorities have expressed firm opposition and demanded that Vietnam correct its erroneous maritime law immediately.
Regrettably, in a statement posted on the Vietnamese foreign ministry's website late on Thursday, the ministry's spokesman said, "Vietnam resolutely rejects the absurd accusations by the Chinese side."
Nothing is more absurd than the attempt to take what rightfully belongs to others as one's own. Hanoi's wishful thinking in claiming sovereignty over Xisha and Nansha islands with its domestic law amounts to robbery. It is an open infringement of China's territorial integrity and a violation of international law.
Hanoi will make itself a laughing stock if it fancies that its error-laden law will legalize its claims over the Chinese maritime territories.
By creating waves again in the South China Sea, it lays bare its caprice and penchant for double-dealing. It betrays the consensus reached by leaders of both countries. It violates the principles of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, reached between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Vietnam is a member.
It has even eaten its own words: Both its official statements in the 1950s and its textbooks in 1974 recognized that Xisha and Nansha islands belonged to China. In the final analysis, Hanoi is trying to involve more countries and firms in resource exploration and development of the waters, believed to sit atop vast deposits of oil and gas.
Hanoi does not seem to care about the long tradition of friendship and the stable and rising trade ties between the two countries. Over 20 years, trade between the two has grown a thousand fold to reach $40 billion last year.
But peace and prosperity seem to be of least interest to Vietnam's legislators.
Having been through multiple wars with multiple neighbors, Vietnam ought to know what happens when countries disregard others' territorial integrity. But the ridiculous antic on Thursday shows it has not. The consequences may prove dangerous and costly.
(China Daily 06/25/2012 page8)