China has been taking advantage of the strategic position of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes in the East Sea to implement its ambitions of occupying the East Sea, seriously threatening freedom of navigation in an extremely important area of the world.
Phu Lam Island (Woody) of Vietnam was occupied illegally by China. Photo: Google Earth in 2012.
Earlier May 2014, China unexpectedly moved the HD-981 oil rig to the location that is about 17 nautical miles from the island of Tri Ton (of Vietnam's Hoang Sa Archipelago) and 120 nautical miles from Ly Son Island (Da Nang province), deep in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Vietnam, and 180 nautical miles from Hainan Island (China).
In mid-July, China stated that the oil rig completed the task before the deadline and withdrew it from Vietnam's EEZ.
During the time China's drilling oil anchored deep in Vietnam's EEZ, there were many activities at the national and international level protesting China's actions that blatantly violated international law and the agreements between Vietnam and China in 2011.
The purpose of this article to analyze the relationship between freedom of navigation and the sovereignty over the Paracel-Spratly islands, and the ability to solve the disputes in the East Sea.
The first part of the article will focus on the relationship between freedom of navigation and sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands.
Sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands is the topic for research, debate, and exchange of Vietnamese and international experts for nearly 40 years.
The decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in more than 60 years showed that the evidence establishing territorial sovereignty must be built on the basis of history and international law.
On this basis, the ancient sources of Vietnam and the West demonstrated that Vietnam reasonably and lawfully exercised the sovereignty over the Paracels for over 300 years, until the Chinese used force to occupy the Paracel Islands in early 1974, killing 74 naval soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam.
Although ancient documents about Vietnam's sovereignty over the Spratly Islands is incomplete, in the mid-1920s, the French Governor of Indochina claimed and exercised sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly islands until 1956, leaving the rights of sovereignty to the Republic of Vietnam.
In March 1988, China used force to occupy Gac Ma (Johnson) Reef and five other rocks in the Spratlys, killing 64 naval soldiers of the Vietnam People's Army.
The policy of China is "not negotiating" with Vietnam on the Paracel Island, "the Paracel Islands is not a disputed area", "Vietnam acknowledged that the Paracel belongs to China", and "China has evidence for its sovereignty over the Paracel-Spratly Islands", etc.
To support the above policy, from the early 1990s, China has step by step completed the team of scholars, including intellectuals trained in the West, who have good relationships with prestigious universities, to positively popularize the views of China to the world.
Although some Vietnamese scholars pointed out the serious mistakes and shortcoming of the evidence about China's sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands in Chinese ancient documents, many Western scholars, due to being influenced by ancient sources, which are big in quantity but weak in quality, and the strong team of Chinese scholars, while did not have access to the criticism of Vietnamese scholars, made disadvantaged comments on the Paracel and Spratly disputes for Vietnam.
Besides the growth of "soft" power, China has been promoting the "hard power" with extraordinary speed in the Paracel Islands.
The airport on Vietnam's Phu Lam island (Woody), which was illegally occupied by the Chinese in early 1956, has been modernized with the 2.700m runway for fighters of the fourth generation as Su-30MKK and Shenyang J-11, which can fly for more than 3,000 km and have a range of operation to Manila (the Philippines) or Ho Chi Minh City.
In addition to the seaport in Quang Hoa Island (Duncan Island), which was seized by force by China in 1974, the naval base in Phu Lam Island has been modernized and used for small and large frigates, patrol boats of 5,000 tons.
In parallel with the increased levels of military operation on the air and at sea, China set up in the Paracel Islands a center collecting signal and intelligent information from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, etc. through a low orbit satellite system and monitoring the movement of ships passing near the Paracel.
Most recently, during the time anchoring the HD-981 oil rig deep in Vietnam's EEZ, China also challenged international law when conducting large-scale construction in Gac Ma and the rocks of Vietnam that it illegaly seized in 1988.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2011 reported that nearly 8.4 billion tons or more than half of the goods transported by sea every year of the whole world passed through the East Sea, mostly through the neighborhood area of the Paracel Islands. This volume of cargos is estimated at about $5.3 trillion, of which $1.2 billion belonged to the US.
Without convincing evidence on its sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands and because it illegal seizes part of the two islands, China has always refused to negotiate with Vietnam.
Moreover, China has been taking advantage of the strategic position of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes in the East Sea to implement its ambitions of occupying the East Sea, seriously threatening freedom of navigation in an extremely important area of the world.
To be continued…
Thai Van Cau
(Space science expert in the USA)
international court of justice, to the world, ho chi minh city, freedom of navigation, hoang sa paracel, the east sea, hoang sa archipelago, ly son island, exclusive economic zone, step by step, ho chi minh, chi minh city, spratly islands, strategic position, hoang sa
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