Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes (Paracel and Spratlys archipelagoes), inseparable part of Viet Nam’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
The Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago is located from 15045’ to 17015’ North Latitude, 1110 to 130 East Longtitude, comprising of 30 islands, rocks, coral reefs, and shoals which can be categorized into 2 groups: An Vinh (Amphitrite) in the East and Luoi Liem (Crescent) in the West, about 120 nautical miles (nm) from Ly Son islands, Quang Ngai, Viet Nam. The total area of the above water area is about 10 km2 and the biggest island is Phu Lam (woody island), with the area of 1,5km2. The Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago is located from 6050’ to 120 North Latitude, 111030’ to 117020’ East Longtitude, comprising of more than 100 islands, rocks, coral reefs and shoals, about 248nm from Cam Ranh (Khanh Hoa), 203 nm from Phu Quy ( Binh Thuan); including a number of important islands, namely Truong Sa (Spratly), An Bang (Amboyna Cay), Ba binh ( Itu- Aba), Nam Yet (Namyit), Loai Ta (Loaita), Thi Tu (Thitu), Song Tu Dong ( Northeast Cay), Song Tu Tay (Southwest Cay). The Total area of the above water area is about 3km2, and the biggest island is Ba Binh (Itu- Aba) with the area of 0,5 km2.
For centuries, at least since 17th century, Viet Nam has maintained effective occupation of the two archipelagoes Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) when they were tera nullius and the Vietnamese State has exercised its sovereignty over these two archipelagoes in an effective, continuous and peaceful manner without any objections from other states.
Many historical and legal documents as well as maps have been found in Viet Nam and many other countries all over the world, proving that Vietnamese Feudal State has exercised its sovereignty over the two archipelagoes (Toan tap Thien Nam tu chi lo do thu (Route maps from the Capital to the Four Directions) by Do Ba also known as Cong Dao( 1686); Phu bien tap luc ( Miscellaneous Records on the Pacification at the Frontier) by Le Quy Don in 1776; Lich trieu hien chuong loai chi( Classified Rules of Dynasties) by Phan Huy Chu (1821); Hoang Viet dia du chi (Geography of Viet Empire) (1833); Dai Nam thuc luc tien bien ( Truthful Accounts of Dai Nam Former Dynasties)(1844-1848); Dai Nam Thuc Luc Chinh bien (Truthful Accounts of Dai Nam Present Dynasties)(1844-1848); Viet su cuong giam khao luoc ( Outline of the Viet History Chronicles)(1876); Dai Nam nhat thong chi (Geography of the Unified Dai Nam )(1982); Kham dinh dai nam hoi bien su le (Geography of Dai Nam)(1910); Hai ngoai ky su (Records of Overseas Events) by Thich Dai San, a Chinese monk (1696), An Nam dai quoc hoa do (Map of Great An Nam) Louis Taberd, a French priest (1838).
The Official Documents of the Nguyen Dynasty (17th- 18th century) with the King’s royal mark constituted a solid ground to confirm the fact that Vietnamese feudal state has established and exercised sovereignty over the two archipelagoes by sending Hoang Sa Brigade and Bac Hai Brigade to the two Archipelagoes to exploit the marine resouces, collect the marine products and goods in shipwreck, conduct survey and mapping, build up memorials and temples, rescue foreign ships in distress…
During the French colonization from the end of 19th century to early 20th century, the French government in the name of Vietnamese administered the island ( as part of Vietnamese protectorate), and protested claims by other states over these two archipelagoes. During the 30s of 20th century, France incorporated these two islands into coastal provinces, supplied garrison, planted the markers, build up the lighthouses, methodological stations and radio stations on the two archipelagoes.
Viet Nam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes was also recognized at the San Francisco Conference in September 1951, Which was to settle the issues of territories after WWII with participation of 51 states. At this Conference, Head of Vietnamese Delegation, Prime Minister of Bao Dai’s Government Tran Van Huu reaffirmed Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes without any objections from 50 other states.
After the signing of the Geneva Treaty, the French government transferred the two islands to Sai Gon Administration. Sai Gon Administration had maintained effective control and exercised sovereignty over the two archipelagoes. Sine Viet Nam gained unification in 1975, the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam administered the islands in the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago and constantly asserted its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago.
Under the contemporary international law on territorial acquisition, a state is recognized to have sovereignty over some territory if that state can prove its occupation of and exercising sovereignty over such territory in the capacity as a state in an effective, continuous and peaceful manner. Accordingly, Viet Nam has established and exercised its sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes in accordance with principles of international law.
By the use of force, China occupied th Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago in 1956 and 1974; some islets, rocks and shoals in the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago of Viet Nam were also occupied by China in 1988. Any acts of using force to occupy Hoang Sa ( Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes constituted a serious violation of the UN Charter and principles of international law. The Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago is the disputed subjects among 5 states or 6 parties (namely Viet Nam, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan (as a party).
The Continental Shelf (CS) and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Viet Nam
In accordance with the Untied Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS), coastal states have the right to extend its Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf at least to 200nm from the baseline for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea, or to extend the continental shelf up to 350 nm from the baseline.
In 1994, Viet Nam ratified the UNCLOS. Like other coastal states, Viet Nam fully has the sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its EEZ and CS as enshrined in the UNCLOS. Viet Nam has exercised effective control and management of it EEZ and CS. Since the 80s of 20th century, Viet Nam has effectively carried out exploitation activities of marine resources, even with international cooperation in the East Sea for the purpose of national economic development.
In order to undertake the rights and obligations of the coastal states in accordance with the UNCLOS, in May 2009, Viet Nam submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (the Partial Submission) on the Outer Limits of Continental Shelf beyond 200nm with respect to the Northern Part of the East Sea and the joint Submission between Viet Nam and Malaysia with respect to the Southern Part of the East Sea.
Viet Nam’s policy is to settle the disputed problems in the East Sea by peaceful means
Viet Nam’s consistent position is to settle disputed problems in the East Sea by peaceful means on the basis of international law, in particular the UNCLOS. Pending the final and long-term settlement of disputed problems in the East Sea, the concerned parties should exercise restraint and make utmost efforts to maintain peace and stability, not to use or threat to use of force in compliance with the UN Charter and principles of international law, including 5 principles of peaceful co-existence; to ensure the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of State Parties in the South the China Sea (DOC-2002), ASEAN six-point principles on the south China sea and ASEAN- China joint Statement on the 10th anniversary of DOC in the South China Sea in 2012, and to work towards a Code of Conduct of State Parties in the South China sea ( COC).
Disputed problems in the east sea are complicated as they involve not only bilateral and multilateral disputes among states in the region, but also state outside the region pertaining the issues of peace, stability and maritime safety. Viet Nam has made it clear that the issues involving only 2 states should be settled bilaterally while the issues involving many other states should be discussed among the concerned parties.
Viet Nam fully respects the freedom of navigation and together with concerned parties, ensures the freedom and safety of navigation of foreign ships in the east sea in compliance with the UNCLOS. Viet Nam welcomes the efforts and contribution from all other countries to maintain peace and stability, as well as freedom and safety of navigation in the East Sea. Viet Nam has always fully implemented the DOC, continuously made efforts to promote the formulation of COC, thus making considerable contribution to the maintenance of peace and stability in the East Sea.
Viet Nam shall persistently project its sovereignty, sovereign rights, jurisdictional rights and legitimate interests in the East Sea and shall be willing to joint other concerned parties to discuss joint development in the disputed areas beyond 200 nm of the EEZ and CS of Viet Nam in the East Sea on the basis of international law and the UNCLOS. Viet Nam is committed to join other concerned parties to enhance cooperation on maritime safety, marine scientific research, protection of marine environment, search and rescue at sea, maritime crime prevention to contribute to confidence-building and common peace and prosperity of the region and the world
Source: National Border Committee – Ministry of Foreign Affairs