U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during his meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Hanoi, Vietnam Friday, May 22, 2015. Ban, who was on a two-day visit to Vietnam, called for peaceful solutions to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where China’s assertiveness has alarmed its smaller neighbors. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)
HANOI, — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Friday for a peaceful solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where China’s increased assertiveness has alarmed its smaller neighbors.
Ban told reporters in Hanoi that he and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang discussed regional security concerns, including the territorial tensions.
“I have consistently called on all parties concerned to resolve their disputes through dialogue in conformity with international law,” he said. “It is important to avoid actions that would provoke or exacerbate the tension.”
Sang told a joint news briefing that he asked Ban and the U.N. to make an “active contribution” to a peaceful solution of the disputes.
Vietnam, along with the Philippines, is one of the most vocal critics of China’s activities in the disputed waters, where Beijing has been creating new artificial islands through massive land reclamation. Other claimants include Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Ban said Vietnam has been playing an increasingly important role in the United Nations. The Communist country is currently a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
He noted that members of the council are expected to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
“This places Vietnam in an ideal position to demonstrate its commitment to human rights by working to improve its own domestic human rights record,” Ban said. “The U.N. stands ready to assist the government of Vietnam in this important task.”
International human rights groups and some Western governments have criticized Vietnam for jailing people for peacefully expressing their views. Hanoi maintains that only law breakers are put behind bars.
U.S. government officials have said that Vietnam needs to make more progress on human rights if it wants closer economic and military ties with Washington.