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Vietnam reiterates island sovereignty in statement sent to UN

Ambassador Le Hoai Trung, Permanent Representative of Vietnam to the United Nations (UN) on Thursday sent a report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon protesting China’s illegal occupation of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago and affirming Vietnam’s sovereignty over it, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday.

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A flag salute ceremony held daily on the Song Tu Tay island, part of Vietnam's Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago in the East Vietnam Sea.
A flag salute ceremony held daily on the Song Tu Tay island, part of Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago in the East Vietnam Sea.

The paper affirms that the Socialist Republic of Vietnam rejects as completely unfounded, in fact and in law, China’s sovereignty claims over the Hoang Sa archipelago (which China calls “the Xisha islands,” also known as the Paracel Islands) in the annexes to the letters dated May 22, 2014 and June 09, 2014 from the Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations as contained in documents A/68/887 and A/68/907 respectively.

Vietnam affirms that the Chinese claims have no legal or historical foundation, and that historical documents are not in accord with China’s claims of sovereignty over the archipelago in the East Vietnam Sea, Vietnam News Agency reported, citing the paper.

In its recent communications, China has referred to some documents as historical evidence to assert the so-called “sovereignty” of China over the Hoang Sa archipelago that belongs to Vietnam.

However, these documents cannot be authenticated, lack accuracy and have been interpreted by China in an arbitrary fashion. Therefore, they  do not by any means prove that China established sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago when this territory was terra nullius.

Historical records, by contrast, show that China understood that its sovereignty did not extend to the Hoang Sa archipelago, the paper said.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has publicly provided authentic historical materials proving that Vietnam established its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago when the islands were terra nullius.

Since at least the 17th century, the Nguyen dynasties of Vietnam organized activities to exploit resources on islands of the Hoang Sa archipelago, undertook maritime measurements and recorded navigation routes to ensure the safety of navigation by foreign vessels through the waters of Hoang Sa archipelago.

These activities were well recorded in official documents issued by the Vietnamese dynasties, which are still archived in Vietnam.

In January 1974, China used military force to occupy the entire Hoang Sa archipelago. The Governments of the Republic of Vietnam (the administration of South Vietnam in 1955-1975) and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam issued statements to express their position and protest against China’s action.

The Government of the Republic of Vietnam requested the United Nations Security Council to hold an urgent meeting on China’s use of force. Under the international law of territorial acquisition, the use of force to occupy a territory cannot create territorial title.

China has deliberately distorted and misinterpreted history when it refers to the letter signed by late Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong in 1958 and other materials and publications published in Vietnam before 1975 in attempts to support its claims over the Hoang Sa archipelago.

The letter made no mention at all of sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes. The letter concerned maritime entitlements, not territorial issues. In fact, the conclusions that China would draw today from the letter are contradicted by China’s own statements, including statement by the late Chinese leader Deng Xiao Ping himself, the paper said.