A reporter of the Vietnam People’s Army Newspaper held an interview with Commander of the Vietnam Coast Guard, Lieutenant-General (Lt.-Gen.) Nguyen Quang Dam, and the interview is below:
Reporter: Do you think the signing of the LI is a success during the Party General-Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to Indonesia?
Lt. Gen. Nguyen Quang Dam: It is a success, which has resulted from strong efforts of the Vietnamese and Indonesian senior leadership over the past time. The signing has also reflected the sound leadership of the Party and State, good instructions of the Central Military Commission and Defense Ministry, and great effort and innovativeness in foreign relations of the Vietnam Coast Guard.
The signing is a success because the LI with its great significance and importance will serve as a basis for the two sides to deal with any remaining issues and to promote practical and effective cooperation between the two maritime law enforcement forces in the future.
The deal, which has met the aspirations of both nations is expected to bring numerous benefits to Vietnam and Indonesia, contributing to maintaining stability in the seas contiguous to the two countries as well as promoting peace, stability and development in the region.
Due to differences in organization and institutions between the Vietnam Coast Guard and Indonesia Coast Guard (here the force is under the President Office), the two sides did not have much cooperation in the past. The LI has been seen as an important milestone in the bilateral cooperation, creating a new opportunity, new condition and new prospect for the coast guard forces of the two countries to boost comprehensive cooperation in the future. The LI will also help deal with actual happenings in the Vietnam-Indonesia contiguous seas although the seas are comparatively stable.
The two countries jointly demarcated the continental shelf in 2003, and the demarcation was approved by the two countries in 2007. At this point, the two sides are negotiating demarcation of their exclusive economic zones (EEZ). As the negotiation on the contiguous seas remains underway, there exist a large number of happenings in these seas, including armed piracy, illegal migration, smuggling, trade fraud and issues related to fishermen of the two countries. This requires the two sides to augment their cooperation to effectively deal with maritime problems. On the other hand, the cooperation between the two coast guard forces should be enhanced on a par with the Vietnam-Indonesia Strategic Partnership.
The LI will allow the two sides to upgrade and expand their communications connections, to hold joint activities and meetings more often, to negotiate other deals, for example, a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the Vietnam Coast Guard and Indonesian Coast Guard in the future, to boost the existing cooperation on maritime safety and security and to shape a cooperation mechanism in search, rescue and support for fishermen of the two countries.
Reporter: What priorities have the two sides agreed on while realizing the LI?
Lt. Gen. Nguyen Quang Dam: Before signing the LI, the two coast guard forces have agreed on the priorities that will be deployed in the immediate future. First, the two sides agreed that relevant forces of the two sides should keep in mind the traditional good friendship and strategic partnership between Vietnam and Indonesia when dealing with events involving citizens of the two countries. The law enforcement agencies of the two countries will honor each other’s law and all international law while maintaining maritime order and security, as well as protecting and supporting fishermen of the two countries.
Second, the two sides will establish a hotline, right after the signing, to exchange information, clarify events or emergencies and coordinate better in dealing with incidents at sea. At this point, the two sides have agreed on the contact address and the communication language on radio and in document. The two sides have also agreed to host, on rotation, a regular meeting at least once a year.
Third, the two sides should quickly conduct joint patrols between the coast guard forces of Vietnam and Indonesia along the boundary of the continental shell. The two sides should also respect the demarcated boundary and actively advise the two governments to demarcate the two countries’ EEZ, which can be considered an important legal basis for the coast guard of each country to conduct maritime patrols, and execute maritime law enforcement activities within the country’s waters. The two sides also agreed to negotiate soon a deal on cooperation between the coast guard forces of the two countries on the basis of the newly signed LI.
Reporter: Have the two sides agreed on approaches to supporting fishermen of the two countries at the contiguous sea?
Lt. Gen. Nguyen Quang Dam: Since the beginning of 2017, Indonesia’s law enforcement agencies have chased and seized hundreds of Vietnamese fishing boats, involving actual use of force and the threaten to use force against Vietnamese fishermen, which have caused much concern and discontent to the public opinion. In a frank and constructive spirit, the Vietnam Coast Guard discussed the issues with its Indonesian counterpart and suggested better approaches to the situation. The two sides then agreed to prioritize information dissemination and education approaches while dealing with offences of fishermen of the two countries. The Vietnamese side asked the Indonesian side, with its role and function, to advise the Indonesian Government to direct other forces of the country to render more support for fishermen of the two countries instead of using force against them, in line with international law and conventions and in accordance with the traditional good friendship and strategic partnership between Vietnam and Indonesia. Moreover, international hostile forces could make use of such violent acts against fishermen to provoke division and undermine the said traditional good friendship between the two countries.
On the other hand, Vietnamese fishermen should have good knowledge of navigation and must not deliberately fish in Indonesia’s waters, damaging the bilateral relations between the two countries, in general, and ties between the coast guard forces in particular. The Vietnam Coast Guard suggested that the Indonesian side handle cases of Vietnamese fishermen’s violations of Indonesian waters under the Indonesian law.
The two sides agreed to continue legal education and dissemination for fishermen to raise their awareness of the other country’s maritime sovereignty. Fishermen must also highly respect international law and conventions, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Reporter: Thank you very much, Mr. Commander.
Interviewed by Tan Tuan from Indonesia
Translated by Thu Nguyen