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Vietnam mulling legal option to resolve maritime spat with China

Published on May 31, 2014 12:32 PM
Vietnam's Defence Minister General Phung Quang Thanh (L) greets Malaysia's Defence Minister and acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein before the 13th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore May 30, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTE

SINGAPORE - Vietnam is still trying to bilaterally resolve a worsening spat with China over the positioning of an oil rig in disputed waters of the South China Sea, its defence minister has said.

But should such efforts fail, Vietnam would look for other solutions, including taking China to court, General Phung Quang Thanh told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Speaking through an interpreter, he said: "We are trying to solve the issue bilaterally with China through peaceful dialogue. But in case we cannot solve the situation by bilateral means, we have to find other solutions. However it must be a peaceful solution."

China moved an oil rig into waters disputed by Beijing and Hanoi in the South China Sea earlier this month. This sparked an acrimonious exchange of words between both countries, as well as a series of worrying skirmishes at sea.

Asia Report South China Sea microsite

Earlier this week, a Vietnamese fishing vessel sunk after colliding with a Chinese vessel. Both countries have blamed each other for the incident.

With no quick resolution in sight, there has been growing talk that Vietnam will take China to international court, following in the footsteps of the Philippines.

General Thanh, who is due to speak at the Shangri-La Dialogue, did not give an indication as to when Hanoi might make a final decision on whether to take legal action against Beijing.

"We are now considering the many solutions we can take," he added. "But we are considering (the legal option)."