VietNamNet: If Vietnam brings the case to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), what steps should we take?
Dr. Ngo Huu Phuoc: To bring the case to the ITLOS, we need to prepare a file for the lawsuit. The documents are compiled by the government or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with political, historical and legal evidence, which is called the lawsuit announcement. Then we send the file to China. If they accept, they have to reply in accordance with the procedures stipulated in the Appendix 7 of the International Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS).
This file must be prepared very carefully. We also need a group of legal experts who well understand international law in general and the UNCLOS in particular.
VietNamNet: Some have said that on this occasion, Vietnam should bring the disputes over the Paracel and Spratly Islands (disputes over territorial sovereignty) to the court, to resolve under the UNCLOS?
Phuoc: I would like to emphasize again that the UNCLOS is not the international legal basis for solving this dispute. The Convention is only applied to solve disputes that arise during the interpretation and implementation of the Convention.
For example, for the case of China’s illegal drilling rig, if China says that it is deploying this rig in their waters and their exclusive economic zone according to the UNCLOS, they have misinterpreted because, according to the Convention, that is the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam. We can file a lawsuit against them for that point because they have explained and applied the UNCLOS wrongly.