Vietnam Pledges China Sea Defense as Legislative Session Opens

Posted July 21st, 2011 at 7:00 am (UTC-5)
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Vietnam's deputy prime minister pledged to defend the country's territorial claims in the South China Sea as a newly elected National Assembly convened for the first time Thursday.

Nguyen Sinh Hung said the government will act to protect Vietnamese fishermen and defend the country's economic activities in the waterway, including its exploration for oil and gas. The government has already proposed measures to beef up security following complaints that Chinese ships interfered with fishermen and oil exploration vessels in disputed waters off Vietnam's coast.

Hung spoke at the opening session of the nation's legislature, whose 500 members were chosen in one-party elections in May. The assembly 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.

Hung 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.