In the backdrop of China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, Vietnam today said "more diplomatic engagement" was needed to resolve the issue and that the region should not move towards a conflict situation.
Interacting with reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club here, Vietnam's Ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh, however, asserted that "whatever belongs to Vietnam has to be defended".
He said South China Sea was an important maritime region and the trade of some of the world's powerful countries, including the US and India, was conducted through it.
"China is not just a big country, but also a big neighbour. The South China Sea is a complicated problem and related not just to the island but also the exclusive economic zone. However, we do not have any other way (out of this problem) than through talks and negotiations.
"We should not move to a situation where we have to involve in a conflict. We need more diplomatic engagement and legal measures to solve this problem," Thanh said in response to a question on Vietnam's position on the South China Sea issue.
"Our position on this issue is very clear. We have already entered into a declaration with China as regards the code of conduct in the South China Sea. Hope there would be support from other countries, inside and outside of the region," he said.
China claims sovereignty over all of South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, a number of ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, have counter claims.
"But, of course, we have to be prepared. Whatever belongs to Vietnam, we have to defend. We have to defend our island and the exclusive economic zone," the envoy said.
An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone as prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, over which a country has special rights regarding exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
"There should be a voice from the region. If South China Sea is blocked, what will happen," Thanh asked.