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Thayer Vietnam: International Workshop on South China Sea, Quang Ngai City

Thayer Vietnam: International Workshop on South China Sea, Quang Ngai City

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An assessment of the international workshop on the South China Sea hosted by Pham Van Dong University in Quang Ngai City in My 2013.
An assessment of the international workshop on the South China Sea hosted by Pham Van Dong University in Quang Ngai City in My 2013.

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Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on May 23, 2013
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06/05/2013

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Background Briefing:Vietnam: InternationalWorkshop on South China Sea,Quang Ngai CityCarlyle A. ThayerMay 18, 2013
[client name deleted]Q1 Could you provide a brief introduction of the international workshop youattended in Quang Ngai City?ANSWER: This was the first international workshop on the South China Sea to beheld outside of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It was hosted by Pham Van DongUniversity but held in the Petrosetco Tower Hotel in Quang Ngai City. Theconference was focused specifically on the historical and legal claims to the Paraceland Spratly islands.Although the workshop only lasted one day the program was very intense. Theworkshop was divided into two 2-hour sessions. The first session focused on
International Law and a Nation’s Historical Sovereignty. There were seven
presentations, five by foreign scholars and two by Vietnamese experts. The foreignscholars came from Australia, India and three from the United States includingProfessor Ngo Vinh Long, University of Maine. The Vietnamese specialists were well
known at home and abroad, they included Professor Do Tien Sam one of Vietnam’s
foremost experts on China and Hoang Viet an expert on international law at the HoChi Minh City University of Law.The second sessions focused on Historical and Legal Sovereignty of Vietnam Over theParacel and Spratly Islands. There were six presentations equally divided betweenAmerican and Vietnamese experts. It was notable that two of the Americanpresenters were overseas Vietnamese, Ho Bach Thao and Nguyen Trong Binh.Each session was co-chaired. Speakers were limited to fifteen minutes and there wasplenty of time for discussion.The workshop included thirty-two officially registered participants, seventeenforeigners and fifteen Vietnamese. The foreigners came from a diverse range of countries: Australia, Canada, India, Italy, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan,and the United States.Q2. Do you think it is useful (or not), compared with other international workshopson the South China Sea held in Vietnam? Do you think Vietnam can continue toorganize such workshops?
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
 
2
ANSWER: Pham Van Dong University clearly showed that it was capable of organizingand conducting an international workshop of high standard. The pre-workshopadministration was superbly handled by Mr Nguyen Tue, Assistant to the Rector. Theproceedings were simultaneously translated into either English or Vietnamesedepending on the language used by the speakers. All conference papers wereprinted and distributed on time.During the second session I asked all the Vietnamese presenters to respond to onequestion: in their reading of the Vietnamese historical records was there anymention of the presence of foreigners in the Paracels. All participants gave detailedreplies. Yes there was evidence that Chinese citizens visited the Paracels but it wasagainst Chinese law to live abroad at that time. There was no evidence of involvement of the Chinese central government but there was evidence of activitiescarried out by Quangdong province officials. There was no permanent presence. ButVietnamese scholars provided evidence of annual voyages to the Paracels underorders of the Nguyen Lords.There was a large media presence and all scholars had an opportunity to beinterviewed.One short-coming was that several overseas and even Vietnamese specialists whowrote papers could not be accommodated on the busy program. This included theformer Secretary General of ASEAN Rod Severino, Philippine scholar Dr. Renato deCastro and
Dr Subhash Kapila from India’s International Relations and Strategic
Affairs consultancy.Q3. How did participants, especially Vietnamese participants, respond to yourpresentation on the Philippines claim to the UNCLOS Arbitral Tribunal?ANSWER: My paper was preceded by a presentation on the same subject by MurrayHiebert from the Washington, DC-based Center of Strategic and International Studies
(CSIS). Mr. Hiebert presented an overview of the Philippines’ claim to the UNCLOS
Arbitral Tribunal and argued that Vietnam should join and support the Philippines.My paper covered much the same ground but I only addressed the implications forVietnam of three scenarios: the Arbitral Tribunal dismisses the case, the ArbitralTribunal finds in favour of the Philippines and the Arbitral Tribunal delivers a mixeddecision.During the discussion period more questions were directed at the other speakers.The Vietnamese participants were largely silent and neither supported nor opposedthe recommendations by Mr. Hiebert. My presentation touched on two sensitive
areas: Vietnam’s excessive baseline in the southeast (the so
-
called “pregnant lady”)
and the need for Vietnam to clarify its claims to islands, rocks and other features inthe South China Sea. I did not receive any critical questions. The co-chair of sessionone, Dr. Nguyen Hung Son from the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, noted that Iraised three scenarios but did not offer a view of what I thought would be the likelyoutcome.Q4. Do you think the presentations of historical evidence by Vietnamese scholarswas interesting to foreign participants?

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