In an interview with the Vietnam News Agency, the RoK scholar said that the Tu Chinh reef (internationally known as Vanguard Bank) in the westernmost area of the Spratly islands, sits well within the 200 nautical miles of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The return of Chinese geological survey vessel group Haiyang Dizhi 8 in areas near the reef have infringed on Vietnam’s EEZ, he stated.
Lee highlighted that there is a legal framework for security and peace in this sea besides the general and traditional principle of free navigation, adding that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the foremost legal frame of reference with which Vietnam can strengthen its own position.
He recalled that the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) dismissed China’s nine-dash line claim as groundless in 2016.
According to the scholar, in an international crisis threatening a state’s security and sovereignty, the most important stance a state should take is to maintain strategic, theoretical and policy consistency, which could gather international support and could get the normatively stronger position.
He also stressed the need for academics to study and research the related maritime history of this area, preparing for the possible debate on to whom the historically and internationally legitimate sovereign of this area should belong.