MANILA, Philippines – “We are enraged. We are very angry.”
With words as firm as these, the Vietnamese ambassador denounced China's “dream” of a 9-dash line, the demarcation that China uses to claim virtually the entire South China Sea.
“We don't fear anything,” Vietnamese Ambassador to the Philippines Truong Trieu Duong told Rappler.
Vietnam, after all, has a long tradition of ejecting its conquerors – including China, in 938 AD – throughout its 2,000-year history.
Duong sat down for a wide-ranging interview on May 29, which covered Vietnam's thoughts on China as well as the United States, their country's next possible moves, and its views on the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute.
The following stories on Rappler covered two main points from the interview:
Below, Rappler is publishing other parts of the interview about the country Duong described as “brave and patriotic.”
RAPPLER: Your country has a long history of fighting and defeating colonizers. And recently we see the Vietnamese engaging in some riots related to the sea dispute. Where do these sentiments come from?
DUONG: I think that actually, we are enraged. We are very angry about what China has done in the South China Sea, and sometimes this sentiment has been demonstrated, but some people have actually overreacted, and we really, in the government, are opposed to that. We don't agree. We don't agree. And that's why we have tried to help all those enterprises and the business community and those who have been affected by those riots. And we are trying, we bring the violators to court, and there are several violators, and those who some kind of incite people. And as I told you, we don't agree with that. And that's why we are trying to help to bring law back to order, and now most of the factories that have been ransacked and actually they have come back to business and production as usual already. So things are calming down.
RAPPLER: Mr Ambassador, given your long history, the temperament of your people, the attitudes in Vietnam, and the culture – the Vietnamese spirit, if we can call it that – why are there very, very strong feelings about the South China Sea or East Sea dispute?
DUONG: Actually, we have a tradition of defending our land, our motherland. It's been such a long history; otherwise, we would not survive until now. We always are ready to stand up against any kind of invasion and aggression, either on land or even in the sea. And these are our legacy, our ancestors left for us, and we want to defend it. It's our sentiment. It's a very, very sentimental feeling that we always have – to keep it. The South China Sea, the Paracels, as well as the Spratly Islands belong to us, for thousands of years already. So we cannot let others come and conquer.
RAPPLER: In a few adjectives how would you describe the Vietnamese people?
DUONG: We are a brave and patriotic people.
RAPPLER: That's how you were brought up.
RAPPLER: How much does Vietnam need the United States in the South China Sea issue?
DUONG: Well, actually, we always want the US to play an important role here.... There must be somebody who can stand strongly against, well, the big guy over there.... So there's no peaceful rise about China. China is always saying that it just has a kind of a peaceful rise of China right now, but indeed, it's not peaceful at all. And there must be somebody. Or Vietnam, we've been living with the Chinese for thousands of years, so we know how to drive them back and how to survive. But still, in this world, sometimes it's not very easy. And war should be the last resort that we should use in this present situation.
RAPPLER: What are you fears right now in relation to this dispute? Your country's fears?
DUONG: Fears? In fact, we stand ready for anything that can happen. Fear is not the right word that we have right now. We don't fear anything. We do not fear anything. We would be ready to encounter what comes next.
RAPPLER: Where do you see this dispute going in the near future?
DUONG: That would be a very, very difficult question to answer. But I do hope that China will feel and see what will be good for them if it does not want to stand alone against the whole world. Because nobody's supporting China right now. You can see that. Everybody's blaming China.... Even the US, the Philippines, and many others. Japan, Korea, Australia, the EU, everybody is just blaming China.
RAPPLER: What message do you want to send China?
DUONG: Be reasonable. Be reasonable, and act like a responsible member of the international community.
RAPPLER: Do you have any other thoughts that we may not have covered?
DUONG: Well, I think that's enough. Maybe the only thing that I really want to stress right now is that Vietnam and the Philippines, we've got to be united, and stand united. We will win.
RAPPLER: That pronoun is interesting – “we.”
DUONG: Yeah, "we" means the Vietnamese people and the Filipino people.
RAPPLER: So right now your mindset is...
DUONG: We are on the same side.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.