Evaluating Vietnam’s Approach and Initiatives in Maritime Security

Under India’s chairmanship of UN Security Council in which maritime security was discussed as one of the major agenda items, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh raised pertinent questions with regards to tackling the challenges related to maritime security, freedom of navigation, and how exploration of resources should be secured for littoral countries which have significant marine resources under their respective EEZ. 

In his speech, which was a little more than seven minutes, he raised very pertinent questions about creating maritime awareness and consciousness at international level. He stated that with increasing maritime tensions and new kind of challenges, there is a need for building trust and concerted efforts to resolve long impending maritime disputes. He stated that there is a need for ensuring peace and tranquillity in maritime domain and developing architecture for exploitation of marine resources in a sustainable manner. 

One of the important aspects he raised during his speech was related to the fusion of international mechanisms and initiatives to promote regional maritime security architecture under the auspices of UN and developing structures for sharing of information and experience. He alluded to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and stated that all those maritime disputes should be resolved in accordance with the provisions of the international law. Vietnam had worked assiduously during its chairmanship of ASEAN in the year 2020 where it pushed the agenda under the auspices of the regional organisation and tried to bring together ASEAN nations and China to consider implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DoC) as well as finalising negotiations with regards to adoption of draft Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea. Prime Minister Chinh lucid representation of facts and the pressing demands has been much appreciated, given the fact that maritime security has been discussed as a serious agenda item.

This August meeting of the United Nations Security Council outrightly stated in the presidential statement calling for stronger regional and international cooperation to promote maritime cooperation and develop security architecture for promoting trade and commerce in maritime domain and ensuring maritime security and safety. Interestingly, most of the participants in the open high-level dialogue accepted the fact that for maritime trade and commerce as well as development of blue economy, and sustainable exploitation of resources, it is pertinent to promote security and cooperation in this domain. In almost all the speeches which have been made there was stress on accepting the United Nations Convention on The Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the main framework for resolving dispute and building a regional security architecture.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh also resonated India’s five ‘S’ approach at the Security Council. He stated that in the maritime domain the countries are facing both traditional and non-traditional security challenges including terrorism and transnational crime. He alluded that sea level rise, increasing marine pollution, and climate change would be the long-term challenges which need to be addressed on a priority. He also stated that increasing tensions and major power rivalry would also impede on the security and safety as well as freedom of navigation in these contested maritime routes. Vietnamese Prime Minister continuously stressed on the fact that Vietnam being a littoral state need to exploit resources for sustainable development of its marine economy and develop a secure maritime environment for the betterment of the people. 

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh stated that there is need for maritime domain awareness and acknowledged the threats to maritime security. He also alluded to resources and capabilities enhancement for implementing national maritime strategies and protocols to meet the objectives. He stated that it is under obligation of all the United Nations members to uphold their legal obligations while respecting the sovereignty, and legitimate interests of the littoral states The recognition of due diplomatic and legal processes to resolve disputes is also required.

In the end Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh alluded to the freedom, and security of navigation and overflight without any military threats or acts which can vitiate the atmosphere. As a true statesman and a mature politician, he has outlined how Vietnam would stand up to join international community to achieve these objectives and promote maritime security at all levels. He addressed that the peace and prosperity at seas is critical for human development and the future of the mankind. The most important aspect of his speech was that he used the right words and a mature approach to address all the challenges in the maritime domain without naming or shaming any country or power as such. 

Given the fact that Vietnam has taken the lead in addressing the challenges regarding South China Sea, expectations have risen regarding Vietnam’s constructive role in the overall South China Sea dispute settlement. Under the chairmanship of India at UNSC and the attention which has been shown regarding maritime security, it can be diplomatically brought to the international attention that use of military power and maritime militia would not resolve maritime issues which have multiple claimants. The increasing contestations over small islands which could not sustain human habitation on its own need to be recognised. The exploitation of resources and exploration of oil and gas in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of the respective countries is the right of any nation under the international law. This must be respected, and this resonated throughout the speech of the Vietnamese Prime Minister during the special session on maritime security.

Prof. Pankaj Jha
Prof. Pankaj Jha
Pankaj Jha is faculty with Jindal School of International Affairs, O P Jindal Global University, Sonepat. He can be reached at pankajstrategic[at]gmail.com