On January 19th, 1974, the military forces of the People’s Republic of China occupied the southwestern islands of Hoang Sa archipelago. It should be noted that this part of Hoang Sa archipelago was under Sai Gon Administration control until 1974. This violation of Viet Nam’s territorial integrity was condemned in the same day by the Sai Gon Administration. On February 14th, 1974, the Republic of South Viet Nam Government declared its three – point position on the solution for territorial disputes on January 26th, 1974, and re-affirmed Viet Nam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes.
On June 28th, 1974, the Republic of South Viet Nam Government affirmed its sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea in Caracas, Venezuela.
On May 5th and 6th, 1975, the Republic of South Viet Nam Government announced its liberation of Trường Sa archipelago, which had been under the control of the Sai Gon Administration.
In September 1975, the delegation of the Republic of South Viet Nam Government at the Colombo Meteorological Conference stated that Hoang Sa archipelago is Viet Nam’s territories, and requested that the Viet Nam’s meteorological station in the archipelago to be registered in the WMO’s list of meteorological stations (this station had previously been entered in the WMO’s list under the registration number 48.860).
After the country’s re-unification, the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam has been promulgating many important legal documents on its maritime zones and Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes. They include the 1977 Statement by the Government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam on Viet Nam’s Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zones, Exclusive Economic Zones, and Continental Shelf; the 1982 Statement by the Government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam on the Baselines for measuring Viet Nam’s Territorial Sea; the 1994 Resolution of the Fifth Session of the Ninth National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam on the Ratification of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); and the 2003 Law of the National Borders.
In terms of administration, the Government of Viet Nam made Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes districts under Dong Nai and Quang Nam – Da Nang provinces, respectively. After some administrative revisions, Hoang Sa archipelago is currently under city Da Nang, while Truong Sa archipelago belongs to Khanh Hoa province.
The Government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam has repeatedly affirmed Viet Nam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes in diplomatic notes sent to the involved parties, in the statements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in international meetings, including the WMO meeting in Geneva (June 1980) and in the International Geological Congress in Paris (July 1980).
Viet Nam has also issued white papers of 1979, 1981, and 1988 on the sovereignty of Viet Nam over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes to affirm that these two archipelagoes are inseparable territories of Viet Nam, and that Viet Nam has full sovereignty over them in accordance with international law and practice.
On March 14th, 1988, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam issued a statement condemning the China’s act that caused military conflict in Truong Sa archipelago and reaffirming Viet Nam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes.
In April 2007, the Government of Viet Nam’s established Truong Sa Township, Song Tu Tay and Sinh Ton communes under Truong Sa districts in Truong Sa archipelago.
In summary, there are three major points one can clearly conclude with reference to the the aforementioned historical documents as well as international law and practice.
First, Viet Nam has actually possessed Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes for long since the time when the two archipelagoes were not under the sovereignty of any other country.
Second, for hundreds of years since the 17th century, Viet Nam has indeed exercised its sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes in a continuous and peaceful manner.
Third, Viet Nam has always been proactive in protecting its rights and titles against any intentions and actions that violate Viet Nam’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and rights in Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes.
Some international documents and treaties related to Viet Nam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes.
1. Cairo Declaration on November 27th, 1943When World War II entered its fiercest stage, a conference of the three powers of the Allies, namely the United Kingdom of Great Britain & North Ireland, the United States of America, and the Republic of China (represented by Chiang Kai-Shel), was in Cairo, Egypt. The Cairo Decleration, the outcome of the conference, states that: “It is their purpose that Japan shall be stripped off all the islands in the Pacific which she has sized or occupied since the beginning of the first World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China.”
In accordance to this statement, the three Great Allies expressed their purpose to force Japan to return to the Republic of China those territories that were seized from the Chinese, including Manchuria, Formosa (Taiwan), and the Pescadores (Penghu), without any mention of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes.
2. Potsdam Declaration on July 26th, 1945Heads of state and government of the United States of Amreica, the United Kingdom of Great Britain & North Ireland, and the Republic of China declared that the terms given in the 1943 Cairo Declaration should be executed. After declaring war with Japan in the Far East, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics also joined this declaration.
3.Treaty of Peace with Japan in 1951The San Francisco Conference on the Treaty of Peace with Japan was held from September 4th to 8th, 1951 with the attendance of 51 countries. Article 2 of Chapter II of the draft treaty states that Japan shall renounce all rights, titles, and claims to specific territories that are listed. These territories include: Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), the Pescadores (Penghu), the Pacific islands, Antarctic areas, Truong sa archipelago, and Hoang sa archipelago.
At the Plenary session on September 5th, 1951, a proposal to amend the language of Article 2 was made by stating that Japan shall recognize the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China over Manchuria, Formosa and its adjacent islands, the Pescadores, the Pratas islands, Hoang Sa archipelago, the Amphirites, and the Maxfield submerged cays, and Truong Sa archipelago, and that Japan shall renounce all rights, titles, and claims to these territories. The proposal was rejected by the conference with 46 against, 3 yes, and 1 abstain. Countries that voted to reject this proposal include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazin, Combodia, Canada, Sri lanka, Chila, Colombia. Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Edcuador, Qgypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, new Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, Viet Nam and Japan.
As the result, Article 2 of Chapter II, Treaty of Peace with Japan states:
“(a) Japan recognizing the independence of Korea, renounces all right, title and claim to Korea, including the islands of Quelpart, Port Hamilton and Dagelet.
(b) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores.
(c) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Kurile islands, and that portion of Sakkhalin and the islands adjacent to it over which japan acquired sovereignty as a consequence of the Treaty Portsmouth of September 5th, 1905.
(d) Japan renounces all right, title and claim in connection with the League of Nations Mandate System, and accepts the action of the United Nations Security Council of April 2nd, 1947, extending the trusteeship system to the Pacific islands formerly under mandate to Japan.
(e) Japan renounces all claim to any right or title to or interest in connection with any part of the Antarctic area, whether deriving from the activities of Japanese nationals or otherwise.
(f) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to the Spratly Islands and to the Paracel Islands.”
Apparently, the territories proclaimed by the 1943 Ciaro Declaration and the 1951 Treaty of Peace with Japan to be under China’s sovereignty only include Taiwan and Penghu. The fact that the Treaty of Peace with Japan places Taiwan and Penghu together in one item (Item b), and Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes together in a separate item (Item f) confirms that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes are not recognized as parts of China.
Also at the 1951 San Francisco Conference, on September 7th, 1951, Tran Van Huu, the head of the State of Viet Nam’s delegation, declared that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes have long been the territories of Viet Nam, and that “to stifle the germs of discord, we affirm our right to the Spratly and Paacel Islands, which have always belonged to Viet Nam”. Nome of the representatives of 51 countries attending the conference objected to and/or expressed their wish to reserve opinions about this statement.
All of these aforementioned documents and evidence clearly demonstrate that international legal documents, from the Cairo Declaration of November 27th, 1943 (reconfirmed by the Potsdam Declaration of July 26th, 1945) to the San Francisco Treaty of Peace with Japan of September 8th, 1951, do not recognize the sovereignty of any other countries over Viet Nam’s Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes. Also, the fact that none of the countries attending the 1951 San Francisco Conference objected to or wished to reserve their opinion on the statement of the Viet Nam’s delegation on Viet Nam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes shows that the international community implicitly recognized the sovereignty of Viet Nam over Hoang Sa and Truong sa archipelagoes./.