Vietnam took its dispute with China to the legal venue when Hanoi filed a formal submission with the arbitration tribunal challenging a position paper Beijing submitted Dec. 7. In its paper, Vietnam’s foreign ministry rejected China’s legal objections to an arbitration case filed by the Philippines, accusing the country of exploiting Philippine-owned waters and thus undermining the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Manila’s first arbitration claim against Beijing has now opened the door for other countries, such as Vietnam, to challenge China. The messy back-and-forth among the three nations has grown only more complicated as the Philippines and Vietnam pile on criticism of China.

“It is Vietnam’s consistent position to fully reject China’s claim over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos and adjacent waters, as well as China’s claiming of ‘historic rights’ to the waters, sea-bed and subsoil within the ‘dotted line’ nine-dash line unilaterally stated by China,” Vietnamese Foreign Ministry representative Le Hai Binh said, according to the Filipino media outlet Vera Files.

The Vietnamese position is helpful in terms of promoting the rule of law and in finding peaceful and nonviolent solutions to the South China Sea claims,” the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement cited by the Philippines-based GMA News Online.

Vietnam and the Philippines have been the most vocal in their territorial disputes with China, to the point where confrontations by naval forces in the area led to alarm that peaceful mediation was in jeopardy.

In the case of the Philippines, Chinese fishermen have frequently been found in waters the Filipinos have long considered to belong to them.

In the case of Vietnam, a Chinese state-owned oil rig was positioned off its coast in May, encroaching on its Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ. The oil rig ignited anti-Chinese rioting in Vietnam, leading many Chinese expatriates to flee the country out of fear for their safety.

By Michelle FlorCruz - International Business Times - December 13, 2014

Vietnam's sea dispute arbitration case vs China promotes peace

MANILA--Vietnam has helped ensure peace in the South China Sea dispute with Beijing by following the Philippines in seeking U.N. arbitration, Manila said, despite the fact that Beijing has refused to take part.

Beijing claims almost the entire energy-rich South China Sea but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims. Only Brunei has not occupied and garrisoned territory in the potential flashpoint in the region.

Vietnam on Dec. 11 submitted its position to a U.N. arbitration tribunal initiated by the Philippines over the festering dispute. China called on Vietnam to respect its sovereignty and has refused U.N. arbitration.

"The Vietnamese position is helpful in terms of promoting the rule of law and in finding peaceful and nonviolent solutions to the South China Sea claims based on international law," the Philippine Foreign Ministry said.

"...This promotes peace and stability in our region."

China, Vietnam and the Philippines are signatories to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international agreement that grants the right to explore and exploit resources within 200 nautical miles of a state's shore. Both Hanoi and Manila say Beijing is extending beyond the limit.

In May, China placed its largest mobile oil rig close to Vietnam's coast in the Paracel islands that prompted angry protests in Hanoi against Chinese business interests. At the same time, Beijing began reclamation in the Spratly islands and appeared to be building airstrips in the area.

Beijing has also seized control of Scarborough Shoal near the Philippines' main island of Luzon and chased civilian ships delivering supplies to Philippine-held Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys.

The Philippines and Vietnam appear to be ending decades of distrust. Last year, the two sides held a first-ever navy-to-navy talks and last month, Hanoi displayed its two most powerful missile-guided stealth frigates in Manila during a port call. The two states will hold the first strategic defense dialogue early next year.

"Vietnam's legal opinion puts political weight on the Philippine legal case," Professor Rommel Banlaoi, a security analyst, said on television.

"What Vietnam did was in fact supporting, reaffirming and even rallying behind the Philippine legal action and that's good for our national interest."

Reuters - December 14, 2014