Sincerity needed to solve South China Sea dispute
People Daily – 17/10/2011 – por Zhang Haiwen & Liu Qing
General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong paid a visit to China on Oct. 11. Leaders of the two countries have attached particular importance to China-Vietnam relations and made specific arrangements and plans for the further development of bilateral ties, showing that the relations between China and Vietnam have not derailed.
The proper resolution of the South China Sea issue is the precondition for the healthy and sustainable development of China-Vietnam relations and an unavoidable topic in Trong’s visit. One of the remarkable results of the visit is the signing of the “Agreement on Basic Principles Guiding the Settlement of Maritime Issues between China and Vietnam.”
Of all the conflicts surrounding the South China Sea, the disputes between China and Vietnam are the most serious. The agreement can be regarded as a step forward made by both sides in the course of addressing the issue and is of great significance to the stability and development of China-Vietnam relations. The signing of the agreement itself and its contents have shown:
First, the agreement is based on realities and shows a foresighted view. The agreement mainly confirmed a series of political guidelines for China and Vietnam to solve the marine dispute and shows both sides’ political will and determination to contain and weaken the contradictions and solve the issue properly at a political and strategic altitude. It is the right way for any neighbors to solve their disputes and is in accordance with the current situation and further development of China-Vietnam relations.
Second, the agreement shows positive, practical and cautious spirits. The agreement fundamentally does not surpass the common views reached by the two countries in the past on the South China Sea issue, and some articles of the agreement are even same as the previous ones. However, it does not mean that the agreement is not making progress. Especially, in the statement that is not long, the issue of negotiating it actively and developing it jointly is mentioned twice, indicating that both sides currently have more active and practical attitudes for solving the marine dispute. It accords with the principle of “suspending the dispute and developing it jointly” that was proposed by Deng Xiaoping and is always adhered to by China.
Third, the agreement is balanced and leaves some leeway for both sides. It can be seen from the wording of the agreement that through serious talks, China has further made its stance clear and also left some leeway for Vietnam.
Fourth, the agreement has a clear focus. It specifies that China and Vietnam should resolve their marine disputes through negations and dialogue. This simple statement is of special significance to remove the noise of “resolving the South China Sea dispute on a multilateral basis.”
Resolving the South China Sea dispute will not be plain sailing. The agreement is just a beginning and does not necessarily mean successful settlement of the dispute. The main goal of the agreement is to provide political guidance for future negotiations but not to introduce specific measures for solving problems. All in all, the agreement will be just another dead letter if both sides lack sincerity and fail to take concrete actions.