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Note verbale ‘warfare’ debated at East Sea conference in Hanoi



Experts believe that smaller countries can collectively and peacefully address disputes through note verbales.

Participants paid much heed to the note verbale ‘warfare’ debated at an international conference on the East Sea held in Hanoi earlier this week as new developments in this highly disputed sea catch global attention.

Note verbale 'warfare' debated at East Sea conference in Hanoi
Militarization is part of reasons triggering note verbale ‘battle’ in the South China Sea. Photo: Google Earth

Discussions have featured different approaches of officials and experts who included the German Ambassador to Vietnam Guido Hildner, experts from University of the Philippines, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Wuhan University, and the Vietnam Society of International Law.

Speakers discussed the significance of “the note verbale debate” to the trajectory of events in the East Sea, its implications to the Code of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (COC) negotiations and the prospect of cooperation in the East Sea.

Debate kicked off with EU Rear Admiral Jurgen Ehle’s speech on EU interests in the East Sea in terms of stability and trade routes, threats to cause precedents to be replicated in other seas.

Ehle said the EU won’t allow any to undermine international law, saying that the EU is in the process of developing an Indo-Pacific policy, incorporating member states’ policy.

Prof Jay Batongbacal at University of the Philippines affirmed the notes verbales show common grounds aligned with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The countries must unify based on such grounds and together face the most powerful claimant.

Dr. Damos Agusman from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the note verbale chain is an exercise of lawfare. He highlighted positions of each by mostly using legal terms with less political consideration involved.

Meanwhile, Mr. Andrew Murdoch at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said that note verbale is not intervention nor dispute politicization given their content and legal effects, arguing that the content should use legal points and carefully framed. To make the lawfare effect, it’s necessary to respond to China’s claims, practice peaceful settlement, and bring clarity to other claims.

Commander Jonathan G. Odom at George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, the US, believed that notes verbales have pros like peaceful, official and transparent practice and cons namely further complication and not narrowing claimants’ differences. The notes will restrictively impact on the COC but show smaller countries can collectively and peacefully address disputes.

Ms. Nguyen Thanh Ha from the Vietnam Society of International Law said the 2016 PCA ruling and new notes verbales show increasing shared agreements and consolidate UNCLOS regimes in the East Sea.

Meanwhile, Prof Lei Xiaolu from Wuhan University said the UK and France have own straight baselines while opposing China using the same in East Sea. He pointed out negative impacts of the notes including increasing interference from non-coastal states; overstressing disputes and reducing political will for functional cooperation. 


Notes verbales, unsigned formal diplomatic communication filed by other states to the United Nations to protest China’s maritime claims in the East Sea show that they challenge the legal basis of China’s claims on the basis of an Arbitral Tribunal Award established under UNCLOS Annex VII.

According to Emeritus Professor Carl Thayer, a veteran Southeast Asia expert, in the case of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), a note verbale sets out a state’s official legal position on claims for an extended continental shelf. If a state fails to respond to a claim, this could be taken as evidence that the state acquiesced.

In other words, China must submit a counter claim to demonstrate that the issue in question is in dispute. Under the CLCS’ Rules of Procedure, the Commission cannot proceed if there is a dispute between two or more states.

Over the past years, there have been more than 20 diplomatic notes and statement clarifying legal stances of both regional and extra-regional countries with regards to various aspects of the East Sea.

These newly clarified positions would not only have far reaching legal implications but also affect future activities and cooperation in the East Sea.

So far, a number of countries have involved in the “Notes Verbales lawfare” including Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, the US, and Australia.

In addition, other countries namely France, Germany, and the UK, commonly known as EU Three or E3, also filed a joint note verbale to the United Nations to reject China’s sweeping claims over the East Sea, heating up the lawfare.

Of the countries involved, Malaysia plays an important role as it is the first country rejecting the legal basis of China’s claims. In December 2019, it made a submission for an extended continental shelf in the northern part of the East Sea to the United Nations.

If the CLCS ruled in favor of Malaysia, this would be a huge blow to China’s legal position not to say China’s prestige, Prof. Thayer said. Hanoitimes

Linh Pham




Vietnam to continue with efforts to realise APEC Vision 2040: Official



APEC leaders recently adopted the APEC Vision 2040, and Vietnam will actively contribute to its realisation to help build an open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community, according to Permanent Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son.

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Permanent Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son (Photo: VNA)

Founded in 1989, APEC comprises 21 economies: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan (China), Thailand, the US, and Vietnam.

In an article on the APEC Vision 2040, Son noted that the vision was adopted at the 27th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting on November 20, marking the starting point of a new journey of cooperation towards an open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community.

Amid complex and unpredictable developments in the region and the world, multilateral cooperation has become more urgent than ever. The APEC Vision 2040 has given new impetus to regional cooperation and economic connectivity while affirming APEC’s role as the leading mechanism of economic connectivity and consolidating trust in multilateralism, he said.

Only five years after its inception, at the second APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Indonesia’s Bogor city in November 1994, participants approved the Bogor Goals, targeting liberalised trade and investment for developed economies by 2010 and for developing countries by 2020.

These goals became the “lodestar” for APEC activities over the last two decades, turning the forum into an increasingly cohesive market and a leading mechanism for guiding regional trade and investment liberalisation, thus contributing to peace, stability, and development in the Asia-Pacific, the Deputy Minister noted.

In the APEC Vision 2040, leaders of member economies stated: “Our vision is an open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040, for the prosperity of all our people and future generations.”

Amid a profoundly changing world, an evolving new regional architecture, a science and technology boom, and complex developments from global challenges, this vision sends a strong message affirming that members continue to attach great importance to the Asia-Pacific and APEC, Son said.

With a commitment to maintaining APEC’s voluntary, non-binding, and consensus-building principles, leaders identified three drivers for achieving the vision: trade and investment, innovation and digitalisation, and strong, balanced, secure, sustainable, and inclusive growth.

These important cooperative pillars will guarantee sustainable growth in the Asia-Pacific as well as the dynamism and resilience of the APEC community, Son went on.

The Deputy Minister held that together with the Hanoi Declaration on the ASEAN Community’s Post-2025 Vision, adopted at the 37th ASEAN Summit in November, the building and implementation of the APEC Vision 2040 will continue to affirm member economies’ cooperative spirit and responsible contributions for the sake of prosperous development, peace, and stability in the Asia-Pacific over the next two decades.

In his article, the official pointed out that during the more than 20 years of its proactive, active, dynamic, and creative membership of APEC, Vietnam has left many considerable imprints on the forum’s development process.

As the host of APEC activities in 2006, Vietnam proposed the idea of an Asia-Pacific free trade area, which has been identified as one of the orientations for the region over the next 20 years.

It again asserted its foothold in the APEC cooperation process via the Da Nang Declaration adopted at the 25th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in 2017. This affirmed the resolve to promote economic connectivity and initiatives on inclusive economic, financial, and social development, along with human resources development in the digital age.

Notably, Vietnam also suggested the formation of the APEC Vision Group to launch discussions on the building of a post-2020 vision, Son wrote.

Over the last three years, the country has continued making practical and outstanding contributions to this building process, he noted, adding that as deputy head of the APEC Vision Group, it worked to promote consensus during the compilation of the group’s report. It also joined other ASEAN members to propose ideas that suited the common interest to promote the role of the Asia-Pacific, centred on people and securing inclusive and sustainable development.

Vietnam’s proposals and ideas were included in the APEC Vision 2040, Son noted.

With its stature and power from nearly 35 years of reforms and over 20 years of APEC membership, he concluded, Vietnam will continue its active contributions to the implementation of the APEC Vision 2040, thereby helping realise shared visions and aspirations and turning them into “fruits of peace, stability, and happiness for all our people” as Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at the 27th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting./.VNA


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Vietnamese leaders congratulate US President-elect Joe Biden



Party General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on November 30 sent congratulations to Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. on his election as President of the US.

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US President- electJoseph Robinette Biden Jr. (Source: AP)

In their congratulatory messages, the Vietnamese leaders expressed their belief that on the basis of bilateral relations built over the last 25 years, the Vietnam-US comprehensive partnership will continue developing in a result-oriented, effective, and sustainable manner, benefiting the two peoples as well as peace, security, stability, cooperation, and development in the region and the world.

The same day, Vice State President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh also extended congratulations to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

On this occasion, the Vietnamese leaders invited the President-elect and Vice President-elect of the US to visit Vietnam at an early date./.VNA


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Vietnam treasures solidarity, friendship with Cuba: Deputy PM



Vietnam and Cuba have enjoyed a special friendship, solidarity and mutual trust in the past six decades, said Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh on December 1.

Vietnam treasures solidarity, friendship with Cuba: Deputy PM hinh anh 1

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh speaks at the event. (Photo: VNA)

Attending a meeting to mark the 60th anniversary of the Vietnam-Cuba diplomatic relations, Minh stressed Vietnam always treasures the valuable assistance from Cuba to the Southeast Asian nation during its struggle for independence as well as the cause of national construction and defence.

Together with the whole-hearted support in the fields of politics and foreign affairs, Cuba sent thousands of engineers, workers, doctors and experts to Vietnam, while helping the country train thousands of students and assisting it with a wide range of equipment, machines, medicines and food even in the time when Cuba faced formidable challenges, he added.

In return, Vietnam has stood shoulder to shoulder with Cuba when the latter is in difficult socio-economic situation, he said, highlighting Vietnam shared reform experience with Cuba when the nation started the update of economic model in 2011, provides stable supply of rice for the nation, and helps it with many practical cooperation programmes.

Minh affirmed Cuba remains an important and trustworthy partner of Vietnam, and both sides have developed a close-knit friendship and cooperation between the two parties, governments, parliaments, and localities.

He laid a stress on the firm determination of leaders of both sides to make the bilateral relations deeper, more stable and sustainable; and develop the economic ties on par with the political relations for the cause of national construction and development in each nation, as well as for peace, stability, cooperation and development in two regions and the world.

Meanwhile, President of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations Nguyen Phuong Nga said that the Vietnam-Cuba friendship has become a symbol for international solidarity during the struggle for independence, freedom, sovereignty and right of self-determination for all peoples.

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President of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations Nguyen Phuong Nga  (Photo: VNA)

Over the past 60 years, the Vietnamese and Cuban peoples have stood side by side to overcome all challenges, she added.

Cuban Ambassador to Vietnam Lianys Torres Rivera said the two nations have maintained comprehensive collaboration, with the engagement of many organisations.

She hailed Vietnam’s stance of supporting the Cuban people in the struggle against the US’s blockade and embargo.

The diplomat added a range of activities were organised in celebration of the diplomatic ties, including online conferences, photo exhibitions, painting contests, friendship meetings, cultural exchanges, and insignia presentation, among others./.VNA


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