Author Topic: Vietnam's legal warfare against China: Prospects and Challenges  (Read 864 times)

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Vietnam's legal warfare against China: Prospects and Challenges
« on: November 22, 2019, 02:17:08 AM »
VIETNAM’S LEGAL WARFARE AGAINST CHINA: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES
BY RICHARD JAVAD HEYDARIAN | NOVEMBER 21, 2019
AMTI UPDATE

https://amti.csis.org/vietnams-legal-warfare-against-china-prospects-and-challenges/

Ahead of its much-anticipated chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year, and amid a months-long naval showdown in the South China Sea, Vietnam has hinted at the possibility of legal warfare against China. Vietnamese deputy foreign minister Le Hoai Trung openly warned in early November that diplomacy isn’t the only tool at Hanoi’s disposal. Emphasizing the need for exploring alternative strategies, he cited “fact-finding, mediation, conciliation, negotiation, arbitration, and litigation measures” as potential countermeasures against China’s maritime assertiveness.

Based on the Philippines’ experience in its arbitration case against China, lawfare seems a risky yet potentially viable option for Vietnam. Beijing proved willing to employ numerous economic levers to punish Manila for filing that case in 2013; Vietnam, which is much more dependent on trade with China, could face significantly greater economic damage if it filed a case. But the payoff could be worth the risk.

The 2016 arbitral award in the Philippines’ case proved the viability of compulsory arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and censured China’s excessive anachronistic claims and maritime aggression. Lawfare, and the threat of its use, provides unique leverage for smaller states confronting a desperate asymmetry of power vis-à-vis China.

In recent months, top Vietnamese officials and experts have repeatedly underscored the centrality of UNCLOS in resolving South China Sea disputes. Deputy Foreign Minister Trung emphasized that “the UN Charter and UNCLOS have sufficient mechanisms for us to apply those [legal] measures.” An influential Vietnamese think tank held a high-profile public forum in October where leading experts advocated filing an arbitration case against China to “identify who is right and who is wrong in this matter.”

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