Water cannon incident alarms Vietnam
MANILA, Philippines – China's latest show of force in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) has fueled the worries shared by the Philippines and Vietnam, which Manila is courting to join its historic case against Beijing.
Vietnamese Ambassador to the Philippines Truong Trieu Duong discussed the so-called water cannon incident in a meeting with with Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay on Tuesday, March 4.
In an e-mail to Rappler, Duong said he and Binay “both talked about the water cannon incident” that saw China driving away Filipino fishermen in the disputed sea. Vietnam calls it the Eastern Sea.
“I expressed my concern that this could happen to any fishing boat that belonged to other claimants in the Eastern Sea,” Duong said Friday, March 7.
By saying this, the Vietnamese ambassador confirmed part of a statement earlier issued by Binay. Duong, however, clarified the portion of Binay's statement that quoted him as saying, “Malaysia is keen to join us.”
Malaysia is among 5 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) claiming parts of the South China Sea. It is also one of the Philippines' prospective partners in its case against China.
Duong explained: “We did refer to the important role that Malaysia can play in the conflict solving process in the Eastern Sea that involves claimants from ASEAN but I do not recall saying specifically about Malaysia being keen as such.”
Vietnam 'very supportive'
In any case, Duong's statements show stronger ties between the Philippines and Vietnam in denouncing China's aggression.
These came after Philippine Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said the Philippines wants Vietnam, as well as Malaysia, to either join the Philippines in its case against China or file another case. (Watch more in the video below.)
“We have been hoping that those two countries will not only interplead but join us, but that is their own decision,” Jardeleza said in a forum last February 27.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez, for his part, didn't categorically say if the DFA has requested Malaysia and Vietnam to do this.
He explained to Rappler, "Other countries will make their decisions on this issue based on their own national interests, and we will respect whatever decision they come up with."
Reuters has also reported that Malaysia and Vietnam have been working more closely with the Philippines in dealing with China over the South China Sea.
In August 2013, Vietnam had said it is “very supportive” of Manila's case against Beijing.
The Philippines is set to file its memorial, or written pleading in the case, by March 30.