Just one day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a stronger statement on the South China Sea (Vietnamese call East Sea) policy, the USS Ralph Johnson guided missile destroyer operated in the Truong Sa (Spratlys). What do these actions mean for regional security that Vietnam is part of the sovereignty dispute with China?
On July 13, Secretary of State Pompeo rejected China’s claim in the South China Sea, saying that “China’s claims are illegal,” and he condemned what he called the Chinese “bullying campaign” to control these areas.
Following the announcement of Secretary of State Pompeo, on July 14, Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell spoke online at a conference on the South China Sea organized by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) held that the US opposes China’s “gangster tactics” in the South China Sea.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific affairs, David Stilwell, emphasized the new US policy in the South China Sea, which accuses Chinese actions in the area around Vanguard Bank of Vietnam “illegal.”
Also at this conference, Mr. Stilwell also indicated that Trump’s administration may use sanctions against Chinese officials for their aggressive actions in the South China Sea, according to CNBC. He said: “We are not excluding any measures … there is still room for sanctions.”
Also on July 14, the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) guided-missile destroyer operated in the Spratlys on a mission to “patrol freedom of navigation,” according to 7th Fleet of the US. “US forces will continue to operate in the South China Sea daily, as we have done for more than a century,” the statement of the Pacific Fleet said.
Professor Dr. Nguyen Dinh Phu, an expert on the South China Sea at the University of California Irvine, stated to VOA that the latest US government statement is considered a “fulcrum” for Vietnam to make stronger claims on the South China Sea.
This is an opportunity and a great fulcrum for the Vietnamese government to take further actions in protecting its sovereignty.
Dr. Nguyen Dinh Phu
“In my view, this is an opportunity, a great fulcrum for the Vietnamese government to take further actions in protecting sovereignty right. This statement is a good sign, but we must wait and see what happens next.
“Vietnam needs to be strong at this point and should make stronger decisions to protect Vietnam’s sacred sovereignty.”
Also from California, Professor Le Minh Nguyen, an expert on China and regional security, should comment to VOA:
“The strength of this statement is that the US stands with Southeast Asian nations in protecting their sovereignty of marine resources.
“It is true that the US has gone further than before in making statements.”
The strength of this statement is that the US stands together with Southeast Asian nations in protecting sovereignty over marine resources.
Professor Le Minh Nguyen
“I think this statement alone is not enough, more action is needed in the field,” said Professor Le Minh Nguyen.
Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at CSIS, Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the claim that China’s actions are illegal has paved the way for a tougher response from the US, as through sanctions, can lead to activities that assert a US naval presence.
Mr. Poling said in a CSIS newsletter on July 14: “Pompeo’s statement did not change the US neutrality over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Washington still has no intention of interfering in the historical disputes of states with the Spratlys and Paracels [Vietnamese call Hoang Sa].”
CSIS experts noted that previous US administrations also considered China’s actions in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf of neighboring countries illegal but not yet powerful and official statement as the administration of President Trump just announced on July 13.
In the short term, the US declaration will create tension between Washington and Beijing, but it has an “immediate impact” on the diplomatic front in international advocacy to protest “illegal” actions. of a nation, Mr. Poling analyzed.
He added that with words stronger than before, the latest US statement could also encourage and pave the way for the South China Sea claimants, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, to make stronger statements for themselves to respond to China.