Vietnamese Prime Minister (PM) Nguyen Xuan Phuc condemned the militarization of the East Sea (or South China Sea) and called for peaceful resolutions of maritime disputes in his remarks at the G7 Outreach Meeting in Japan on May 27.

PM Phuc arrived in the Japanese city of Nagoya on May 26 for a three-day official visit to the East Asian country to attend the G7 Outreach Meeting, a sideline meeting of the summit of G7.

The Outreach Meeting of the G7 Summit was attended by leaders of seven G7 nations, namely Japan, the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, Canada and Italy, along with representatives from the European Union and invited leaders from Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea and international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank.

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) and French President François Hollande. Photo:

The outreach meeting comprised two sessions focusing on high-quality infrastructure, regional security, women’s rights, healthcare, the 2030 agenda and sustainable development goals, and cooperation with Africa.

PM Phuc delivered his remarks at the first working session of the G7 Outreach Meeting in Ise-Shima, Mie Prefecture.

Peaceful resolutions to disputes

Prime Minister Phuc asserted that the prosperity and sustainable development of Vietnam, Asia, and the world at large could be guaranteed only through a peaceful and stable global environment.

“We are facing growing challenges to regional peace and security, most notably to the security, safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea,” the Vietnamese PM stressed. “Unilateral actions that violate international law and regional agreements such as large-scale reclamation of man-made islands, alterations of the status quo, and increased militarization are seriously threatening regional peace and stability.”

The situation, he said, requires those nations concerned to restrain themselves and seek peaceful resolutions to disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).

The Vietnamese PM also advised all nations to promote trust-building measures and preventive diplomacy, while urging the early formulation of a COC for the waterway.

PM Phuc reaffirmed the stance of Vietnam and that of member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in favor of G7 nations’ concrete support for measures to ensure security and freedom of navigation and overflight, as well as peaceful settlement of disputes in line with international law and regional accords.

The official called on G7 nations and the international community to make further responsible contributions to the consolidation of a peaceful and orderly environment in the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.

Arbitration of disputes in East Sea

The G7 Ise-Shima Leaders’ Declaration that was announced at the conclusion of the two-day summit on May 27, though it avoided naming any specific country, was allegedly directed at China in its mention of maritime tension in Asia.

The G7 leaders underlined that all frictions at sea in Asia should be resolved with peaceful measures pursuant to current laws.

“We are concerned about the situation in the East China Sea and East Sea of Vietnam, and emphasize the fundamental importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes,” the declaration reads.

The G7 nations agreed in their joint statement that the making and clarifying of sovereignty claims in the region should be proceeded in line with international law, and that nations should refrain from “unilateral actions which could increase tensions” as well as the use of “force or coercion in trying to drive their claims.”

The declaration advised claimants to seek settlement of disputes “by peaceful means including through juridical procedures including arbitration.”

This stance of the G7 group was announced just a few weeks prior to the scheduled ruling of the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China’s claims of sovereignty over expansive areas in the East Sea that include various islands claimed by the Philippines.

The declaration, however, failed to fully capture the strong objection against China’s claims by some of the G7 nations.

“The test of our credibility as the G7 is our ability to defend the common values that we share,” President Donald Tusk of the European Council said in his remarks before the summit. “This test will only be passed if we take a clear and tough stance on every topic of our discussions here in Ise-Shima.”

“I refer in particular to the issue of maritime security at the East China Sea and [East Sea],” President Tusk added.

China did not welcome the declaration by G7 leaders, according to a report by Reuters, as the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying retorted in Beijing that the East Sea of Vietnam had “nothing to do” with the G7 or any of its members.

"China is resolutely opposed to individual countries hyping up the [East Sea] for personal gain," the spokesperson was quoted by Reuters as saying.