Sat, Jun 23, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Vietnam defends new law claiming contested islands

AFP, HANOI

Vietnam has defended a new maritime law claiming sovereignty over the fiercely contested Paracel Islands, also known as the Xisha Islands (西沙群島), and the Spratly Islands, also known as the Nansha Islands (南沙島), both of which are also claimed by Taiwan, dismissing protests from China as “absurd.”

The National Assembly on Thursday adopted the Law on the Sea, which places the disputed mineral-rich islands under Hanoi’s sovereignty, prompting Beijing to summon Vietnam’s ambassador to oppose the “illegal and invalid” move.

Taiwan, China and Vietnam claim sovereignty over the Paracel Islands, while Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines claim sovereignty over some or all of the Spratly Islands.

“Vietnam resolutely rejects the absurd accusations by the Chinese side,” Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said in a statement posted on the ministry’s Web site late on Thursday.

The new law — the first adopted by Hanoi covering the South China Sea — is “normal lawmaking activity,” he said, adding that Vietnam had “indisputable legal basis and historical evidence of its sovereignty over the islands.”

“More seriously, [Vietnam] strongly opposes China’s establishment of the so-called ‘Sansha City,’” Nghi said.

China said on Thursday it had elevated the administrative status of the Nansha and Xisha islands from a county to a prefectural-level district under the control of the city of Sansha.

The official Thanh Nien newspaper reported yesterday that the law was adopted by 495 out of 496 deputies and that it would come into force in January next year.

China and South Vietnam once administered different parts of the Paracels, but after a brief conflict in 1974, Beijing took control of the entire group of islands.

Vietnam holds several of the larger Spratly Islands and neighboring countries have long been locked in diplomatic rows over their conflicting claims.

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