On Monday 11 June, in Hanoi, the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam (DAV), the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the Embassy of Australia in Ha Noi jointly held the 3rd event  in the Ocean Dialogue series on international law and the South China Sea. This Dialogue focused on recent developments in the South China Sea from a legal perspective and how stakeholders could cooperate to manage disputes in the region.  

Guest speakers were Professor Nguyen Hong Thao (Second Vice Chairman of the United Nations International Law Commission), Associate Professor Herman J. Kraft (University of Philippines) and Dr. Yan Yan (National Institute for South China Sea Studies). The Dialogue was moderated by Associate Professor Nguyen Thi Lan Anh (DAV).

The 3rd Ocean Dialogue is timely, as in the past months developments in the South China Sea have raised security concerns for countries in the region as well as other major stakeholders. China and ASEAN countries are currently negotiating the Code of Conduct of parties in the South China Sea (COC), attracting significant attention of legal experts and scholars. However, two years after the release of the Arbitral Tribunal Award in the case between the Philippines and China regarding the South China Sea, no significant improvement has been achievedto reduce disputes in the region.

At the opening, Dr. Le Hai Binh, Vice President of the DAV, highlighted the role of international law in maintaining rule-based international order. He argued that international law is the backbone for international and regional security and stability. With regard to the South China Sea, all main stakeholders explicitly announced that they abide by international law. However, their different interpretations of the international law have been a major challenge for regional cooperation. Dr. Binh, therefore, contended that such dialogue would help promote shared understanding among experts, policy makers, and the wider audience, thus contribute to narrow perception gaps and facilitate cooperation in the South China Sea.

Mr. Peter Girke, Resident Representative of KAS, underlined that rule of law and peace are core values of KAS and that “the South China Sea is in dire need to find joint and peaceful solutions respecting international law to settle the conflicts about territorial claims. We hope that the 3rd Ocean Dialogue discussion stimulated legal experts and policy makers to further think and work on international principles of law to address these disputes”.

Ms Stacey Nation, Counsellor (Political) sharedthat “The Australian Embassy is pleased to sponsor this Third Ocean Dialogue in support of a commitment made in Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper to support a secure, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region in which the rights of all states are respected and in which disputes are resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law”.

Speakers of the 3rd Ocean Dialogue have discussed a wide range of legal issues concerning the South China Sea, including the rule of law, the status of structures in the South China Sea, the Arbitral Tribunal Award, the idea of “joint development”between states in the South China Sea, the Code of Conduct of parties in the South China Sea, and how to promote a common interpretation on international law in the South China Sea.

Approximately 80 participants, from Vietnamese government ministries, academia, the Diplomatic community in Ha Noi and Australian Alumni attended the Dialogue.

South China Sea Studies