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West Philippine Sea Tops Agenda of PH-Vietnam Vice-Ministers Dialogue

Topping the agenda of the 2nd PH-Vietnam Vice-Ministerial Defense and Strategic Dialogue held on April 15 was the West Philippine Sea/East Sea/South China Sea. While the Philippines shared with the Vietnamese side the most recent developments as regards China’s building of islands, Vietnam argued that China is already enforcing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area even without a formal announcement to that effect. Both sides denounced China’s activities in the South China Sea, specifically its island building efforts, as having changed the status.

Both sides recognized the importance of deepening bilateral cooperation between Manila and Hanoi given the changed strategic context as far as the South China Sea is concerned. Bilateral cooperation is also an imperative if both countries were to effectively address the South China Sea, with the Vietnamese delegation proposing to have consultations prior to participation in various regional dialogue mechanisms to ensure a coordinated PH-Vietnam position on related matters.

In addition to the common security challenge faced by the two countries as regards the West Philippine Sea or East Sea, both sides agreed to collaborate to enhance each other’s capacity to undertake HA/DR and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. Addressing violent extremism is also something which both sides agreed to cooperate on.

Philippine Undersecretary of National Defense Honorio Azcueta and Vietnam’s Defense Vice-Minister Senior Colonel General Nguyen Chi Vinh, who co-chaired the dialogue, commended the outcomes of the Defense Cooperation Working Group, which met earlier in the day.