Video: Vietnam President Responds to Xi Jinping on Island Dispute

Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang speaks at Asia Society New York on September 28. (Elsa Ruiz/Asia Society)

Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang has responded to recent remarks made by Chinese President Xi Jinping regarding disputed islands in the South China Sea, saying the territories “belong to Vietnam, and Vietnam has full historical evidence to prove our national sovereignty.”

Speaking at Asia Society New York on Monday, Sang was referring to his country’s claim over the two island chains known internationally as the Spratly and Paracel Islands. In recent months, images have surfaced showing extensive Chinese construction of airstrips and other communication and military facilities on both chains — in some cases involving dredging and creation of new artificial islands.

In a written interview with the Wall Street Journal published September 22, Xi defended the construction, saying that the islands have been China’s territory since ancient times. “This is fully backed by historical and legal evidence,” he wrote. “China’s development and maintenance of facilities on some of our garrisoned islands and reefs in the [Spratly] Islands does not impact on or target any other country, and it should not be over-interpreted.”

Sang responded, saying that the islands have belonged to Vietnam for “thousands of years, since our ancestors,” and emphasizing that both sides need to control and manage the disputes until a mutually acceptable long-term solution can be reached. “We cannot just agree to disagree,” Sang stated. “We cannot say that what is mine is yours, so I think we need to resort to international law.”

Sang, however, did welcome comments Xi made during talks with U.S. President Barack Obama where he said that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of South China Sea disputes. “I think that is quite in line with the aspirations of ASEAN countries, all other claimants, and all other parties concerned,” Sang said. “It’s not just the concern of this region, but also the whole world. Therefore, if they make a statement of non-militarization of the South China Sea on this issue, I support that idea, it’s in line with international aspirations.”

Watch the above video clip for Sang's full response to Xi Jinping’s Wall Street Journal interview. 

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About the Author

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Eric Fish was a Content Producer at Asia Society New York and is author of the book China's Millennials: The Want Generation.