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China plots to legalize illicit sovereignty claims with East Vietnam Sea lighthouses: experts

By starting work on two lighthouses on two reefs in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago in the East Vietnam Sea, China is continuing its attempts to legalize its illegitimate sovereignty claims in the maritime area, Vietnamese experts have commented.

By starting work on two lighthouses on two reefs in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago in the East Vietnam Sea, China is continuing its attempts to legalize its illegitimate sovereignty claims in the maritime area, Vietnamese experts have commented.
By starting work on two lighthouses on two reefs in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago in the East Vietnam Sea, China is continuing its attempts to legalize its illegitimate sovereignty claims in the maritime area, Vietnamese experts have commented.

The fact that China on Tuesday hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses on Chau Vien (Cuarteron Reef) and Gac Ma (Johnson South Reef), part of Truong Sa, is a new step in the country’s scheme to legalize its groundless sovereignty claims in the East Vietnam Sea, Dr. Tran Cong Truc, the ex-chief of the Vietnamese government’s Border Committee, told VnExpress  newspaper.

After using force to illegally occupy many parts of Truong Sa, China has built military bases, logistics centers, runways and other facilities there, causing great concern among the international community, Dr. Truc said.

Following such activities, Beijing is now illicitly building two lighthouses on the reefs belonging to Vietnam, so Hanoi must protest this absurd construction, the ex-official said.

Truc pointed out that China is using a tactic in which it conducts activities of scientific nature, including building facilities for hydro-meteorological purposes, to serve its scheme to legalize its groundless claims of sovereignty over the locations where such projects are located, the former official said.

In this process, Beijing also calls on a number of international hydro-meteorological organizations to recognize such construction works, he added.

“Therefore, we must request that those organizations not recognize the two lighthouses,” Dr. Truc said.

Beijing said it is building to serve administrative, scientific and weather forecasting purposes, but in fact, it wants to use such structures to hide military bases behind them, the official said.

China has built artificial islands on reefs belonging to Vietnam as another action in its process to legalize its illicit claims in the East Vietnam Sea, but under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, man-made islands are not eligible to be used in the demarcation of maritime borders, Dr. Truc added.

Another Vietnamese expert, Dr. Ha Anh Tuan, a research fellow at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, said he was not surprised by Beijing’s building of the lighthouses.

Such construction began following Beijing’s earlier announcement that it will provide civil services including marine navigation, weather forecasting, and rescue and salvage, and build military bases and facilities in the East Vietnam Sea, Dr. Tuan said.

Reuters on Tuesday cited China’s state news agency Xinhua as saying that the Ministry of Transport had hosted a ceremony for the construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef in Truong Sa, defying calls from the United States and the Philippines to freeze such activity.

These reefs are known in English as Cuarteron Reef and Johnson South Reef respectively.