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Truth about South China Sea dispute: expert

Editor: Zhang Dan 丨Xinhua

06-14-2014 19:44 BJT

BEIJING, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Vietnam says it has evidence to prove its claim in the South China Sea but is ignoring its own historical documents that vindicate China's position, Ling Dequan, a researcher with Center for World Affairs Studies affiliated to Xinhua, said on Saturday.

The following is the full text of Ling's article titled "The truth about the sea dispute" and published on China Daily on Saturday:

Vietnam says it has evidence to prove its claim in South China Sea but is ignoring own historical documents that vindicate China's position. Vietnam has been using China-Vietnam clashes in the South China Sea, and distorting facts, fanning passions and playing up the "China threat" theory, to vilify China. Ignoring the overall development of Beijing-Hanoi relationship, Vietnam is pretending to be a "victim" in the South China Sea dispute, saying it is prepared to seek international arbitration on the issue.

Vietnamese leaders have said that they have enough historical evidence to justify Vietnam's sovereignty over "Huangsha" and "Changsha" islands, claiming that Vietnam has been the "master" of the two islands since the 17th century. It seems like they have lifted their remarks straight out of a white paper "Truth of China-Vietnam Relationship over 30 Years", issued by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry in 1979 when bilateral ties were not normal. Worse, almost all the arguments in that 1979 document were copied from a "white paper" issued by the Saigon-based puppet South Vietnam regime (or the Republic of Vietnam) in February 1974.

Now the Vietnamese leaders, using the so-called historical documents, are trying to claim that Vietnam's "Huangsha" and "Changsha" islands are actually China's Xisha Islands and Nansha Islands. The fact is that, the islands recorded in Vietnamese documents refer to some other islands surrounding Vietnam instead of the Xisha and Nansha islands.

To encroach on China's territory in the 1970s, the South Vietnam regime distorted historical facts, which were adopted by later Vietnamese leaders for political purposes. This has complicated the issue and caused serious damage to Sino-Vietnamese ties.

A look at the evidence presented in China's diplomatic documents in the late 1970s and early 1980s will reveal the truth. In fact, even some Vietnamese scholars have said that the documents cited by Vietnam to claim sovereignty over the Xisha and Nansha islands are not genuine historical records but edited versions of originals, confirming China's sovereignty over the islands.

Vietnamese leaders said China forcibly occupied the entire "Huangsha Islands" in 1974, which were then controlled by the Saigon regime. The Saigon regime had kicked up a row over the naval battle that broke out in 1974 in the waters around China's Xisha Islands and sought military support from its ally, the United States, and requested the UN Security Council's intervention. But neither the US nor the UN Security Council acceded to the Saigon regime's request. This means the international community, including the US, has never believed in Vietnam's complaints or claims.

On Sept 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh announced the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi. In January 1950, the People's Republic of China became the first country to establish diplomatic relations with Ho Chi Minh-led Vietnam. For China and a vast majority of the other countries, the government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (later the Socialist Republic of Vietnam), was (and has been) the only legitimate government of Vietnam, and the government of South Vietnam, a puppet regime installed by French colonialists and American imperialists.

So now, about 39 years after defeating the Americans, why does the Socialist Republic of Vietnam want to use the Saigon regime's claim to create trouble in the South China Sea? Aren't the current Vietnamese leaders betraying Ho Chi Minh and other freedom fighters, profaning the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of their compatriots who laid down their lives to resist foreign aggressors, and negating the valued support of their allies in the battle against colonialism by citing the comprador Saigon regime's claim?

The Vietnamese government must not violate the principle of estoppel in the Xisha and Nansha islands' sovereignty issue. Vietnamese leaders claim that no country recognizes that the Xisha and Nansha islands belong to China. This is a brazen lie, because the Democratic Republic of Vietnam topped the list of countries that accepted China's sovereignty over the islands.

The Democratic Republic of Vietnam's position was unequivocal in the 1950s and 1960s. The position remained unchanged even after the death of Ho Chi Minh and the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Documents with the Chinese Foreign Ministry from the 1970s and 1980s show the position of the Ho Chi Minh-led Vietnamese Communist Party on the Xisha and Nansha islands. The most important of these documents is a note given by former Vietnamese premier Pham Van Dong to Zhou Enlai and the declaration of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1965.

On Sept 4, 1958, the Declaration of the Government of the People's Republic of China said that the breadth of the territorial sea of the country shall be 12 nautical miles and that this provision should apply to all territories of the PRC, including all the islands in the South China Sea. On Sept 14, 1958, Pham Van Dong solemnly stated in his note to Zhou Enlai that Vietnam recognizes and supports the Declaration of the Government of the PRC on the country's territorial sea. On Sept 22, 1958, the diplomatic note was publicly published in Nhan Dan, the official newspaper of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

On May 9, 1965, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam issued a statement on the US' definition on the "theater of war" in Vietnam. The statement said that by defining the whole of Vietnam and the waters up to 100 nautical miles off its coast as well as part of the territorial sea of China's Xisha Islands as the operational area of the US armed forces, Lyndon Johnson, then US president, has directly threatened the security of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and its neighbors.

In recent years, however, some Vietnamese government officials and "scholars" have tried to "reinterpret" the two government documents, only to end up making fools of themselves. And after their attempts failed, the Vietnamese government started pretending as if the two documents never existed.

Vietnam has said that it is fully prepared with historical and legal evidence to prove its claim in the South China Sea, and it is waiting for the appropriate time to take China to the international court of justice. If that is so, then Vietnam should not forget to attach Pham Van Dong's note and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam's statement, as well as the maps and textbooks published by Vietnam before 1975, with its complaint.

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