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Chinese envoy ‘rewrites' East Sea history

Update: July, 04/2014 - 09:34

by Tran Van, columnist

In an article published in the online Thai publication Matichon on June 23, Ning Fuikui, China's Ambassador to Thailand, said the world was disappointed at the ongoing acts in the South China Sea (East Sea). He said many countries had accused China of being a bully and the "trouble-maker" in the region.

The facts are that China installed, without permission, an oil rig in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of another country, namely Viet Nam. It deliberately rammed that country's fishing boats operating normally in the area - and even sank one. These acts not only disregard international law, violate the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), they go against bilateral agreements reach-ed by senior leaders of the two countries. The acts also aggravate the situation in the whole of the South China Sea and increase tension in the region.

However, to find excuses for China's actions, Ning did not hesitate to rewrite history, fabricate facts and use twisted arguments to hide the truth.

The Paracel Archipelago belongs to Viet Nam, not China

Viet Nam has sufficient historical and legal foundations to assert its sovereignty over the Paracel (Hoang Sa in Vietnamese) and Spratly (Truong Sa in Vietnamese) Archipelagos. Viet Nam was the first nation to occupy and then continuously and peacefully operate in the two areas.

Since at least the 17th century, when these territories were still terra nullius, the Nguyen Lords of Viet Nam (1558-1783) established a special naval fleet to administrate and exploit the Paracel Archipelago. This fleet was sent every year to exploit resources, undertake geographical and geological measurements, conduct salvage operations, and build landmarks and utility buildings.

China, on the other hand, expressed no intention in claiming sovereignty over the Paracel Archipelago. In 1898, after ships Bellona and Himeji Maru sank in the Paracel and were looted by Chinese fishermen, the Deputy Governor of Guang-dong said that the archipelago was terra nullius. He added that they did not belong to China and were not administratively attached to any district of Hainan Island and that no authority was responsible for policing it.

On the other hand, many Chinese documents, such as Haiwai jishi (Records of Things Overseas, 1696) or Hailu (Records at sea, 1820) acknowledge the archipel-ago belonged to Viet Nam.

The Cairo Conference in 1943 and Potsdam Conference in 1945, to which China was a participant, declared that Japan had to return the islands in the Pacific that it had taken by force during World War 2. The territories that Japan had to return to China were Manju, Taiwan and Penghu, not the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. No official document has been found, as Ambassador Ning claims, saying that in 1946 China recovered the Paracels from Japan.

In particular, at the San Francisco Conference in 1951, the request that Japan recognise the sovereignty of China over the Paracel Archipelago was rejected by the conference by a majority of 46 votes. At this conference, the head of the Vietnamese Delegation, Prime Minister Tran Van Huu, confirmed Viet Nam's sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly islands. This met with no protest from all 51 participating countries.

In fact, in 1956 and 1974, China took by force the eastern half and then the western half of the Paracels from the Republic of Viet Nam (in the South). This act violated the concept prohibiting the use of force against the territorial integrity of another State. This aggression, and other wrongful acts by China, have met with strong protests from Viet Nam.

Ambassador Ning cited a number of documents from the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam (in the North) before 1974 to argue that Viet Nam recognised the sovereignty of China over the archipelago, but this is a twisted argument. According to the Geneva Accords of 1954, the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam was assigned to administrate the northern half of Viet Nam from the 17th parallel, which did not include the Paracel Archipelago. China must be well aware of this.

China is violating Viet Nam's sovereign rights

Ambassador Ning misled public opinion on the question of sovereignty and also failed to uncover another fact. That is, the oil rig is located in Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. I would like to invite him to read the basic documents of the law of the sea to see that both the so-called "17-nautical-miles-of -water" around Triton Island and the "baseline of the Paracel Archipelago" claimed by China are against the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982.

Therefore, China has violated Viet Nam's sovereign rights and jurisdiction by unilaterally drilling in an area about 60-80 nautical miles inside Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. Viet Nam has consistently protested against all encroachments into its waters.

China has, on a number of occasions, intruded into this area to conduct surveys. In response to such intrusions, Viet Nam has sent law enforcement vessels to the area to warn and chase away Chinese vessels conducting illegal activities. It has also sent Notes Verbales to China to protest. All are still on the record.

Ning feels free to make accusations without evidences. While he claims Viet Nam has sent frogmen into the area and that Vietnamese ships had rammed Chinese ships a total of 1,416 times, neither he nor his government could provide any evidence to support these wrongful statements.

Just the opposite! Video clips provided by Viet Nam and reports from international journalists present at the scene tell a completely different story. It is China who has used a large number of vessels (up to 140) of different types, including military ships with ready-to-deploy weapons, to surround its oil rig. Chinese ships have deliberately rammed and fired water cannon at Vietnamese vessels, causing injuries to dozens of officers, damaging many vessels from Viet Nam's civilian law-enforcement agencies, and even sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat.

It is ridiculous for Ambassador Ning to cite "a large numbers of obstacles, including fishing nets and floating objects" in the water. These were broken from Vietnamese ships violently hit by Chinese vessels.

All the evidence of China's violent and aggressive behaviour are publicly available for anyone to check.

Fuelled by the anger towards China's behaviour, Vietnamese people held spontaneous protests in some provinces. Some people took this as an opportunity to be provocative towards a few Chinese workers and foreign investors in Viet Nam. The Vietnamese Government immediately arrested the offenders, reinforced security and compensated affected enterprises. The situation has been stabilised and affected enterprises has resumed their usual production.

All the Government's efforts have been acknowledged by foreign investors. However, Ambassador Ning still blames the Vietnamese Government. Instead of rushing in to blame Viet Nam, one wonders if Ning asked himself what the Chinese government did for Japanese investors affected by anti-Japan riots in China two years ago.

China is ignoring Viet Nam's goodwill and offers to settle the current situation through dialogue and other peaceful means

Since the beginning of the operation of Hayang Shiyou 981, Viet Nam has made the utmost efforts to communicate with China and demand it stop all violations, and to substantially negotiate and end to the issues.

Viet Nam has made more than 30 diplomatic communications with Chinese authorities. The latest was the invitation of Chinese State Councillor, H. E. Yang Jiechi, to Ha Noi by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Viet Nam, H. E. Pham Binh Minh. But China has, up to date, consistently refused to withdraw the oil rig and to start faithful negotiations to stabilise the situation.

I strongly urge the Chinese government to honour the promise made by Mr. Deng Xiaoping, the then Deputy Prime Minister of China to Mr. Le Duan, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Viet Nam in 1975 to resolve the disagreement between Viet Nam and China over the Paracel through friendly negotiations, as well as honouring all other relevant bilateral agreements between the two countries.

Viet Nam actively supports and respects international law, peace, stability and development in both the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea

Viet Nam has proven to be a strong supporter of international law, peace, stability and development in the Gulf of Thailand and the East Sea by its concrete deeds. In 1997, Viet Nam and Thailand successfully signed the maritime boundary delimitation agreement with Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand, the first maritime boundary agreement in Southeast Asia after the acceptance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the first maritime boundary agreement in the Gulf of Thailand.

Vietnamese and Thai governments also undertook co-operative activities in the insurance of maritime security and protection of marine living resources in this area as well as carried out joint patrols. Viet Nam has successfully signed maritime boundary delimitation agreements with many other countries in the Gulf of Thailand and the East Sea including with China in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2000, which was the first maritime boundary agreement ever signed by China.

Viet Nam has also been undertaking many important bilateral and multilateral cooperative initiatives in the East Sea, including marine research, management and conservation of natural resources, exploration and exploitation of mineral resources. In particular, just before China began drilling, Viet Nam and China had agreed to set up a group to discuss joint development at sea.

Continuing this policy of supporting international law, peace, stability and development in the region, Viet Nam will resolutely use all peaceful means allowed by international law to protect its legitimate rights and interests. Viet Nam hopes that governments and people from all around the world, including the government and people of Thailand will continue to help the people of Viet Nam in these goodwill efforts.

Since Ambassador Ning seems to have a particular sense for quotations. I would like to end this note by quoting an ancient Chinese proverb: "look inside you before blaming others". — VNS

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