Following Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s statement in a recent Q&A session at the National Assembly that Vietnam will reclaim its sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands through peaceful measures, three Southeast Asian Sea Research Foundation experts have put forward some solutions for the issue.
Many of Vietnam’s feudal dynasties from the 17th to the 19th centuries asserted its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa islands by regularly dispatching naval fleets to the archipelago to conduct surveys on natural resources, collect valuables from sunken boats, build temples and plant trees.
The feudal administrations also collected tax from foreign boats operating in the sea areas around the islands and provided support to passing boats in distress.
This enforcement of sovereignty took place over a course of three centuries and did not face any objections or disputes from any other countries, including China. This proves that Hoang Sa has not been a terra nullius since at least the 17th century and Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa is indisputable.
After France established its colonial rule in Vietnam in the 19th century, it represented Vietnam in exercising and defending her sovereignty over Hoang Sa. On October 14, 1950, the French Government officially handed over to King Bao Dai the right to manage Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands.
On August 22, 1956, after the French left Vietnam, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam immediately established its control over the islands to address China’s disputes over the two archipelagoes.
On July 2, 1976, the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was established and has since become the legal successor of the Government of Republic of Vietnam in respect of sovereignty over Hoang Sa.
In 1974 China occupied Hoang Sa by force when the archipelago was under control of the Government of Republic of Vietnam.
Despite the Chinese occupation of the archipelago, Vietnam established Hoang Sa as an administrative district of Quang Nam – Da Nang Province in December 1982.
Peaceful and legal measures to resolve disputes
Vietnam should avail itself of all international and regional forums, like the United Nations, APEC and ASEAN, to obtain support for her diplomatic struggle against China. The lack of international support will only make the already-difficult negotiation with China more difficult.
Vietnam should also make use of the power of public opinion, from ordinary Vietnamese to experts and scholars, to call for support from people, experts and scholars from other countries, and even to appeal to Chinese negotiators, in her dispute with China over the sovereignty over Hoang Sa.
Such measures must be consistent and strong but they must not damage Vietnam’s peaceful negotiation with China about Hoang Sa issues.
The Hoang Sa dispute should be included in the governance scope of the Code of Conduct in the East Sea and future similar documents.
The State should set up a specific agency that consists of experts in the fields of foreign affairs, history and international laws to initiate claims of Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa in a peaceful manner.
The agency should study and learn from the territorial disputes among other countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Thailand, and prepare necessary juridical and historical evidence for referring the dispute to the International Court of Justice.
The country should negotiate with and apply pressure to China to obtain its agreement to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice.
The State should provide necessary information about Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa to every Vietnamese citizen and every Vietnamese overseas to call on them to take part in the struggle to reclaim Hoang Sa.
|Hoang Sa has long belonged to Vietnam’s sovereignty: Prime Minister |
In a recent Q&A session at the National Assembly on November 25, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said Vietnam would reclaim her sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands, since the country has enough legal and historical evidence for her sovereignty over Hoang Sa as well as Truong Sa (Spratly).
“We took actual control over the two archipelagoes at least since the 17th century, when they were not under sovereignty of any country,” he said.
“In 1956 China used its troops to occupy a number of eastern islands of Hoang Sa and in 1974 it continued using force to wrest control of the entire archipelago from the Saigon Administration, or the Government of Republic of Vietnam.
“The Government of Republic of Vietnam subsequently condemned China for the occupation and requested the United Nations to intervene. The Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam at that time also issued an announcement to object the Chinese occupation.
“Our consistent stance is that Hoang Sa is under the sovereignty of Vietnam. It is our policy to reclaim our sovereignty over the archipelago through peaceful negotiations, based on the UN Charter, the UN Law on Seas Convention and the Code of Conduct in the East Sea.
|Territorial occupation by force is not legal |
Under the International Public Law, the use of force to occupy a territory has been rejected since the beginning of the 20th century.
This denial of the use of force to seize territory is specified in the UN General Assembly Resolution 2626 dated October 24, 1970: “The territory of a State shall not be the object of military occupation resulting from the use of force in contravention of the provisions of the Charter. The territory of a State shall not be the object of acquisition by another State resulting from the threat or use of force. No territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal.”
Therefore, the Chinese occupation of Hoang Sa by force has contravened the relevant international laws and shall not constitute China’s sovereignty over the archipelago.