Vietnam Legislature Opens With China Sea on Agenda

Posted July 21st, 2011 at 3:50 am (UTC-5)
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Vietnam's newly elected National Assembly convened for the first time Thursday with rising tensions over the South China Sea on its agenda for the first time.

The government has recently proposed various measures to beef up security following reports that Chinese ships have interfered with Vietnamese fishermen and oil exploration vessels in disputed areas of the sea.

The 500 delegates, who were chosen in one-party elections in May, must also approve the ruling party's choices for president, prime minister and other top positions during the 11-day session which ends August 6.

Toward the end of the session, the delegates are expected to discuss the establishment of a committee to draft amendments to the 1992 constitution.

The Associated Press quoted Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung as telling the Assembly Thursday that the government will implement measures to defend the country's sovereignty and to protect economic activities, including fishing and oil exploration.

The official said Vietnam wants to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful means based on international law.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea allows countries like Vietnam to claim an exclusive economic zone within 370 kilometers of their shores. However China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea based largely on ancient maps.

The assembly is scheduled to vote Monday for a new president, who is expected to be Truong Tan Sang, currently a permanent member of the Communist Party secretariat. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is expected to be re-elected to a second five-year term the following day.

The Assembly is to elect its chairman and vice chairman on Saturday.