Manila and Hanoi agree on South China Sea security
Philippines and Vietnam setup security hotline. Aquino and Sang reiterate the importance of the 1982 Law of the Sea, sign five-year action plan in 13 sectors, including climate, tourism and security.
Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – President Benigno Aquino III and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang agreed in Manila to set up a hotline between the two nations to share information on security in the South China Sea, which has recently been at the centre of territorial disputes between the nations of Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese leader is in the Philippines on an official three-day visit.

The two leaders reiterated the importance of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the peaceful resolution of territorial issues. The convention allows coastal nations to establish a 200 nautical mile (380 km) Exclusive Economic Zone. Both also indicated their support for the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was signed in 2002 by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Manila and Hanoi did not discuss ongoing maritime disputes, which have raised tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, following recent Chinese border violations.

The Philippines and Vietnam have also agreed to an action plan for 2011-2016 in 13 general areas of cooperation: political; defense and security; economic; maritime and ocean issues; agriculture, fisheries and forestry; environment and climate change; energy security; tourism; health; education and culture; science and technology; social welfare and development; and regional and internal cooperation.

Among Asia-Pacific nations, China has the largest territorial claims in the South China Sea, including the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which have no permanent population but are resource rich.

Regional hegemony would be strategically important for Beijing because it would enable it to control the region’s trade and natural resources, such as oil and natural gas.

Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have challenged China’s expansionist aims, backed by the United States.

Behind the scene, Washington is building a network of alliances against Chinese expansionism that is centred on the Philippines and Japan but is open to Vietnam. All of these nations could become valuable allies in case of open conflict in the Asia-Pacific region.