White Paper on the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands

Republic of Vietnam

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Saigon, 1975

 

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Confirmation by other foreign sources

 

Various foreign authors confirmed that the Hoang Sa Islands were fully part of the Vietnamese territory as early as the 18th century. For instance, testimony in 1701 by a missionary travelling on the Amphitrite (reportedly the first French ship to enter South-China Sea late in the 17th century) describing frightening dangers experienced by ships in the vicinity of the Paracels, mentioned specifically that this archipelago be-longed to the Empire of Annam i.e., a former name for Vietnam (8).

 

Another document dated April 10, 1768 and called "Note sur l'Asie demandee par M. de la Borde a M. d'Estaing" (now held in French archives) (9) provides evidence of intense patrol operations between the Paracels and the coast of Vietnam by Vietnamese naval units. When French Admiral d'Estaing was planning a raid against the Vietnamese city of Hue in order to set a French establishment in Indochina, he reported that Vietnamese vessels frequently cruised between the Paracels and the coast and thus, "would have reported about his approach ". This fact apparently caused him to cancel the raid planned against Vietnam. This demonstrates that as long as two centuries ago, the Hoang Sa Islands were already included in the Vietnamese system of defense and that the most evident acts in the exercise of state jurisdiction were regularly performed by Vietnamese authorities.

 

In the same document, Admiral d'Estaing also gave various detailed descriptions of the defense installations on the shore. He wrote that "the Hue citadel contained 1,200 cannons, of which 800 were made of bronze, many bearing the arms of Portugal and the date 1661. There were also some smaller pieces (bearing the arms of Cambodia and the monogram of the British Company of India) that had been salvaged from driftwood of wrecked vessels in the Paracels."

 

In another proposal made in 1758-59 for a French attempt against Vietnam and presented in his Memoire pour une entreprise sur la Cochinchine proposee a M. de Magon par M. d'Estaing (10), admiral d'Estaing made another mention of the Hoang Sa Islands in his description of the defense of Lord Vo Vuong's palace. Built on the bank of a river, he reported "the palace was surrounded by an 8 to 9-foot high wall without any kind of fortification. There were many cannons that were designed for decoration, rather than for use. Admiral d'Estaing put the number of cannons at 400, many being Portuguese pieces "taken here from ships wrecked on the Paracels. "

 

In a book published in London in 1806: "a Voyage To Cochinchina", John Barrow told the story of a British journey to Vietnam and indicated that the Paracels were part of the Vietnamese economic world.

 

The journey described in the book was made by Count Maccartney, then British Envoy to the Chinese Court. Leaving England on September 2, 1792, Count Maccartney stopped in Tourane (Danang) between May 24 and June 16, 1793 in order to enter into contact with the King of Cochinchina. The 3-week long stay gave John Barrow leisure to study Vietnamese vessels.

 

Therefore, he provided in his book a detailed description of different types of boats used by the Cochinchinese in order to reach, among other places, the Paracel Islands where they collected trepang and swallow nests (11).

 

Thus Vietnamese and foreign sources agree that the Hoang Sa Islands have for centuries been included within the scope of Vietnamese interests and aims. These sources recognize the perfection of the sovereign title upheld by the Vietnamese in the course of time in relation to a growing number of states.

 

The progressive intensification of Vietnamese control over the Hoang Sa Islands reached a decisive and irreversible point at the beginning of the 19th century, when the reigning Nguyen dynasty developed a systematic policy toward complete integration of the archipelago into the national community.

 

CHAPTER II

 

THE EXERCISE OF VIETNAMESE SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE HOANG SA ISLANDS

 

Historical consolidation of the Vietnamese title to the Hoang Sa Islands continued under the Nguyen dynasty' i.e., after 1802. From that date, it is possible to speak of a Paracel policy , by the successive emperors of Vietnam as manifested through systematic measures taken in the fields of administration, defense,. transports and economic exploitation.

Formal taking of possession by Emperor Gia Long

 

The first emperor of the Nguyen dynasty, Gia Long, consecrated the will of the Vietnamese to confirm their sovereignty over the Hoang Sa Islands by formally taking possession of the archipelago. According to various historic sources, in the year 1816 the Vietnamese flag was planted in a formal ceremony on the Paracels. In 1837 the Reverend, Jean-Louis Taberd, then Bishop of Isauropolis, wrote the following in his "Note on the Geography of Cochinchina printed in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, India, (12):

 

"The Pracel or Paracels is a labyrinth of small islands, rocks and sand-banks, which appears to extend up to the 11st degree of north latitude, in the 107th parallel of longitude from Paris. Some navigators have traversed part of these shoals with a boldness more fortunate than prudent, but others have suffered in the attempt. The Cochin Chinese called them Con-Vang. Although this kind of archipelago presents nothing but rocks and great depths which promise more inconveniences than advantages, the king GIA LONG thought he had increased his dominions by this sorry addition. In 1816, he went with solemnity to plant his flag and take formal possession of these rocks, which it is not likely any body will dispute with him."

 

The Reverend Jean Louis Taberd was not the only one to give testimony in support of Vietnamese sovereignty over the Paracels. Another foreigner, a Frenchman who spent many years in the Far East and who was a contemporary eyewitness, wrote (13):

 

"Cochinchina, of which the sovereign king today carries the title of Emperor, includes Cochinchina proper, Tonkin: a few scarcely inhabited islands not far from the coastline and the Paracel archipelago made up of islets, coral reefs and uninhabited rocks. It was in 1816 that the present Emperor (Gia Long) took possession of this archipelago."

 

Consolidation of sovereignty under subsequent emperors

 

Numerous documents in Vietnamese archives give the most convincing facts about the display of the Nguyen dynasty's authority over the Hoang Sa Islands. One of the striking facts was the order given in 1833 by Emperor Minh Mang to his minister of Public Work to plant trees on some of these islands because "trees will grow up and will offer a luxuriant vegetation that would allow navigators to reconnoiter these vicinities so to avoid having their ships being wrecked in these not very deep waters. This will be for the profit of ten thousand generations to come" (14).

 

Considering the fact that most ships that sank in the area were foreign-owned, there is no doubt that the Vietnamese executed this act to meet their international responsibilities. Thus, by offering certain guarantees to other states and their nationals, by being an identifiable addressee of international claims regarding the Hoang Sa Islands, Vietnam further asserted her title to the property of these territories (15).

 

One year later, in 1834, the same emperor Minh Mang sent Garrison Commander Truong Phuc Si and 20 other men to the Hoang Sa archipelago in order to make a map of the area (16). This mission apparently was not carried out to the satisfaction of officials in the Ministry of Public Works who, two years later, reported to the Emperor that because of the size of the area, "only one island had been drawn on a map which is not as precise and detailed as we would wish".

 

The report added that since these islands were "of great strategic importance to our maritime borders", it would be appropriate to send out missions each year in order to explore the whole archipelago and to get accustomed to the sea routes there.

 

The report further pointed out that all the islands, islets and mere sand-banks must be surveyed in order to get a description of their relief and size, and to determine coordinates and distances. The Emperor approved the recommendations and sent a Navy team to the Hoang Sa Islands for the purposes set in the report (1836). Ten markers were taken along on the vessel to be planted on the islands which the team would reconnoiter. On each marker was the inscription: "In the year Binh Than, 17th Year of the reign of Minh Mang, Navy Commander Pham Huu Nhat, commissioned by the Emperor to Hoang Sa to conduct map surveyings, landed at this place and planted this marker so to perpetuate the memory of the event" (17).

 

The data gathered in the survey were used in the drawing of the remarkable "Detailed map of the Dai Nam" (see Fig. 8) (18) achieved circa 1838. Although not locating the two archipelagoes of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa at their proper place, the "Detailed Map" had the merit of mentioning these archipelagoes specifically by their names. The islands later known as Paracels and Spratlys were then clearly and indisputably considered parts of the Vietnamese territory.

 

In other action lying within the normal display of state jurisdiction. Emperor Minh Mang ordered, in the 16th year of his reign (1835), the building of a temple on one of the Hoang Sa Islands. The following is recorded in Vietnamese annals ( 19): "Among the Hoang Sa Islands located in the territorial waters of Quang Nghia (present day Quang Nam) Province, there exists the island of Bach Sa (white-sand island) where the vegetation is luxuriant. In the middle of the island is a well and in its South-West part, a temple with a sign on which is, engraved the sentence , "Van Ly Ba Binh" - ( the waves calm down over ten thousand leagues ).

 

To the North of this isle is another one built with coral with a perimeter measuring 340 truong 2 xich and an altitude of 1 truong 3 thuoc (20). It is as high as the Island of White-Sand and called Ban Than Thach (21). Last year (1834), it was the intention of the Emperor to build there a temple and a stele, but the project was postponed because of unfavorable winds and waves.

 

This year, the Emperor ordered Navy Commander Pham Van Nguyen to head an Elephant Garrison Detachment and boatmen hired in the provinces of Quang Nghia and Binh Dinh to transport materials for the purpose of building a temple on that island. This temple is 7 truong distant from the old one, and has a stonemark to its left and a brick screen in front. Upon completion of the work which lasted 10 days, the team returned home" (22).

 

Another document indicates that the stonemark just mentioned was 1 thuoc 5 tac high and 1 thuoc 2 tac wide (23). Under the reign of Emperor Minh Mang, communications between the Hoang Sa islands and the mainland were intense enough to justify the construction of a temple dedicated to the Gods of Hoang Sa right on the beach of Quang Ngai in 1835. That city was a main harbour from which boats going to these islands originated (24).

 

Time has probably erased traces of these works performed almost 140 years ago and for which light materials were largely used. But all the Vietnamese documents quoted are official publications kept until now in Vietnamese archives or prestigious foreign institutions. These reliable recordings of facts in Vietnam's national life demonstrate clearly that one of the major concerns of the Nguyen emperors' territorial policy was to consolidate sovereignty over the Hoang Sa Islands.

 

As a result, Vietnamese jurisdiction became so obvious that contemporary foreign witnesses never thought of it as a contested matter. We already mentioned Bishop Jean-Louis Taberd's and J.B. Chaigneau's testimonies, but other foreign publications of the 19th Century also recognized the Vietnamese possession: a western map drawn in 1838 showed the - Paracel or Cat Vang Islands as part of the Annam Empire (5). A geography book written under the auspices of the (French) Ethnography Society mentioned the Paracels or Kat Vang as one of the very numerous islands and archipelagoes belonging to Vietnam (26). It must be stressed that all French works quoted had been produced at a time when the French did not yet control Vietnam and, therefore, had no interest in defending French claims to sovereignty over these islands.

 

Preservation of rights under French colonial rule

 

In the second half of the 19th century, the Southern part of Vietnam, named Cochinchina, became a French possession (1867). This was followed by the establishment of a French protectorate over the remaining Vietnamese territory (1883). Therefore the French temporarily took over the responsibility to defend the territorial integrity of the "Annam Empire". On behalf of Vietnam, the French continued the normal exercise of sovereignty over the Hoang Sa Islands (Paracels).

 

They did fulfil their responsibilities. Although kept busy by the task of strengthening their authority on the Indochina mainland, the French colonial government did not forget the far-off islands and took all the necessary measures to ensure an orderly administration, an adequate defense and a better knowledge of what a French author called in 1933 "the infinitely small Paracels of our colonial domain" (27). The Vietnamese title to sovereignty was not only preserved, it was reinforced. On the other hand, numerous scientific studies about the islands were produced which could only be conducted if the Paracels were firmly under French-Vietnamese control.

 

The international responsibility that the Nguyen emperors had already accepted in regard to navigation of foreign vessels was not neglected by the French, who completed in 1899 a feasibility study for the construction of a lighthouse on one of the Hoang Sa Islands. Unfortunately, this project, which was supported by Indochina Governor General Paul Doumer, could not be realized for lack of funds. However, French patrol vessels assured the security of sea traffic and conducted many rescue operations for wrecked foreign ships in the Paracel.

 

Beginning in 1920, apparently worried by the suspect presence of various kinds of vessels in the Hoang Sa area, the Indochinese customs authorities started making regular inspections to the islands for the purpose of checking illegal traffic. As early as the end of World War I, the French control was so evident that Japanese nationals called on French Indochina's authorities for the exploitation of phosphate. This was the case of the Mitsui Bussan Kaisha Company, which extracted phosphates for many years from two islands, Ile Boisee (Phu Lam) and Ile Roberts (Cam Tuyen).

 

The Japanese Government, on its part, implicitly recognized French jurisdiction in 1927. In a report to the Minister of Colonies in Paris dated March 20, 1930, the French Governor of Indochina wrote that in 1927, the Japanese consul in Hanoi, Mr. Kurosawa, was instructed by his government to inquire with the French authorities about the status of some groups of islands in the South China Sea. But the Consul declared that, according to instructions from the Japanese Government, the Paracels were expressly left outside of the discussions, the question of ownership of these islands not being a matter of dispute with France (Japan was then involved in controversies over the Truong Sa or Spratly Islands).

 

The French jurisdiction was sufficiently firm and peaceful to permit such actions as the conduct of scientific surveys on the islands. An impressive list of superior-level scientific studies in all- fields was made available by colonial institutions or private authors. Starting in 1925, with the first recorded scientific mission on the vessel De Lanessan by scientists from the famed Oceanographic Institute of Nha Trang, knowledge about this part of Vietnamese territory increased. The trip by the De Lanessan confirmed the existence of rich beds of phosphate, which became the object of many detailed studies. For example:

 

- Maurice Clerget, Contribution a l'etude des iles Paracels; les phosphates. Nhatrang, Vietnam 1932.

- A. Lacroix, Les ressources minerales de la France d'Outre-Mer, tome IV (Paracels' phosphate: p. 165), Paris 1935.

- United Nations, ECAFE, Phosphate Resources of Mekong Basin Countries; 4. Vietnam, (1): Paracel Islands; Bangkok 1972.

 

The De Lanessan survey mission also proved the existence of a continental shelf which reaches out in platforms from the Vietnamese coast into the sea: the Paracels rest on one of these platforms, and thus are joined to the coast of Vietnam by a submarine plinth. In the following years, the names of many French ships have entered the history of both the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes: the Alerte, Astrobale, Ingenieur-en-Chef Girod made other survey trips to the Hoang Sa Islands. The result was an increasing number of other scientific publications about these islands in all fields of human concern and activities. Some of these are:

 

- A. Krempf, La forme des recifs coralliens et le regime des vents alternants, Saigon 1927.

- J. Delacour and P. Jabouille, Oiseaux des iles Paracels, Nha-trang, 1928.

- Numerous reports called Notes of the Oceanographic Institute of Indochina in Nhatrang containing valuable scientific data about the Paracels, for instance the "5th Note" (1925-26) and the "22nd Note" (1934).

 

French scientists continued to work for Vietnam-in its early years of independence and continued to contribute to our knowledge of these Vietnamese islands. Among them was Mr. E. Saurin, the author of numerous studies of great scientific value:

 

- Notes sur les iles Paracels (Geologic archives of Vietnam No. 3), Saigon 1955.

- A propos des galets exotiques des iles Paracels (Geologic archives of Vietnam No. 4), Saigon 1957.

- Faune Malacologique terrestre des iles Paracels (Journal de Conchiliologie, Vol. XCVIII), Paris 1958.

- Gasteropodes marins des iles Paracels, Faculty of Sciences, Saigon, Vol. I: 1960; Vol. II: 1961.

 

Another French scientist, H. Fontaine, produced, 'm cooperation with a Vietnamese colleague a remarkable study of the islands' flora called "Contribution de la connaissance de la flore des iles Paracels" (Faculty of Sciences, Saigon 1957). These scientific achievements, accomplished over a long period of time, could only have been achieved by a country exercising sovereignty over these islands to the fullest extent. As a matter of fact, Vietnam would not run any risk by challenging othern countries having a pretense to sovereignty over the Hoang Sa Islands to show the list of scientific publications they had made available in the past.

 

In their acts mentioned above, the French, who merely took over rights and responsibilities temporarily transferred to them by the people under their "protection", simply assured a normal continuation of jurisdiction on behalf of the Vietnamese. However, in the face of unfounded Chinese claims over and illegal actions connected with, the Hoang Sa Islands in 1932, the French felt that it was necessary to take defensive measures. Since 1909, China has made sporadic claims over the islands.

 

On one occasion during that year, the provincial authorities of Kuang Tung sent gun-boats to conduct a reconnaissance mission there. On March 20, 1921 the Governor of Kuang Tung, signed a peculiar decree annexing the Hoang Sa Islands to the Chinese Island of Hainan.

 

However, his action went unnoticed because it is recorded only in the provincial records therefore, nobody could know about it in order to make comments or to protest. Although not followed by occupation of any sort, actions such as these were enough to cause some preemptive actions by the French. For instance. in 1930 crew-members of La Malicieuse landed on many of the Hoang Sa Islands to plant flags and set up "sovereignty columns".

 

More serious was the Chinese intention to invite bids for the exploitation of the islands' phosphate. When the Chinese intent became known, the French Government protested to the Chinese Embassy in Paris by a note dated December 4, 1931. A few months later, when the Chinese effectively called for bids, the Paris Government renewed the protests by a Note dated April 24, 1932.

 

This time the French strongly reaffirmed their rights with substantive supporting arguments, e.g. the former rights exercised by the emperors of Vietnam, the official taking of possession by Emperor Gia Long in 1816, and the sending of Indochinese troops to guard the islands, etc... On September 29, 1932, the Chinese Government rejected the French protest on the ground that at the time Gia Long took possession of the islands, Vietnam was a vassal state of China.

 

It may be true that, as in other periods of its history, Vietnam was then a nominal vassal of China (although it was never quite clear when this situation started or ended),. but it is certain that by this reply China implicitly recognized that Vietnam had asserted its claim to the Hoang Sa Islands. The Chinese Government also appeared confused about the legal distinction between suzerainty and sovereignty: even if Vietnam was a vassal state of China in 1816, the formal relationship of suzerainty could not preclude such Vietnamese acts of sovereignty as the incorporation of new territories.

 

Convinced of her legitimate rights in the dispute, France by a diplomatic note to China dated February 28, 1937, proposed that a settlement of the conflicting claims be reached through international arbitration. But China knew the risks involved in such a challenge and declined the offer. Thus, the Chinese government simply responded by reaffirming its claim to the islands. That negative attitude caused the French to send military units, composed of Vietnamese soldiers and called Garde Indochinoise, to many of the Hoang Sa Islands (28). These units built many - sovereignty colums -, of which there exists photographic records. The column on Pattle Island contained the following inscription in French:

 

Republique Francaise
Empire d'Annam
Archipel des Paracels
1816 - Ile de Pattle 1938

 

These dates marked the taking of possession -by Emperor Gia Long and the year the column was erected (29).

 

These troops, commanded by French officers, were to stay on the islands until 1956 with a brief interruption after 1941. Men the Japanese seized the Paracels (and the Spratlys) by force in -that year, France was the only power to officially protest against it. ' In 1946, shortly after their return to Indochina at the end of World War II, the French sent troops on. the vessel Savorgnan de Brazza to re-occupy the archipelago.

 

However, events in the French-Vietminh war compelled these troops to withdraw from the Paracels in September, 1946. Informed that Chinese troops (who had supposedly arrived to disarm defeated Japanese troops pursuant to agreements between the Allied powers) continued to stay on the islands, the French issued a formal protest on January 13, 1947. Then they dispatched the warship Le Tonkinois to the area. Crewmembers found Boisee Island (Phu Lam) still occupied (January 17, 1947).

 

The Chinese troops refused to leave and, being outnumbered, the French-Vietnamese soldiers left for Pattle Island where they established their headquarters. They also rebuilt the Weather Station which had operated for 6 years in the past, between 1938 and 1944. The new station became operative in late 1947 and, under international station code 48860, provided the world with meteorological data for 26 more years, until the day when Communist Chinese troops seized the Hoang Sa archipelago by force (January 20, 1974).

 

Beginning in the 1930's, these disputes, with China had already motivated the French authorities in Indochina to take stronger measures in administrative organization. By Decree No. 156-SC dated June 15, 1932 the Governor General of Indochina gave the Hoang Sa Islands the name of "Delegation des Paracels" - and the status of an administrative unit of Thua Thien Province.

 

This decree was later confirmed by a Vietnamese imperial ordinance signed by Emperor Bao Dai on March 30, 1938 (the confirmation was necessary because, as the ordinance recalled, the Hoang Sa Islands had traditionally been part of Quang Nam and Quang Ngai provinces, from whence communications with the islands had originated). A subsequent Decree of May 5, 1939 by the French Governor General divided the archipelago into two Delegations: Crescent et Dependences, and Amphitrite et Dependences.

 

These administrative measures were adequately completed by the organization of services on the islands. For instance, health checks were regularly made on the workers, called coolies by the French, during their stay there. Consequently, civil service officers were appointed on a regular basis. These officers had to stay permanently on either Pattle Island (for the Crescent and Dependences Group) or Boisee Island (for the Amphitrite and Dependences Group).

 

However, because of the islands' bad climate, they were allowed long vacations on the mainland and were relieved after short periods. One of these former civil servants is Mr. Mahamedbhay Mohsine. a French citizen of Indian origin who.. outraged by the Chinese invasion of 1974, has offered to testify anywhere on the legitimacy of Vietnamese rights. Between May 5, 1939 and March 13, 1942, Mr. Mohsine served as Administrative Officer or De1egue administratif for the Paracels. He was first posted on Pattle, then on July 16, 1941 was ordered to relieve a colleague, Deputy-Inspector Willaume, on Boisee. Later Mr. Mohsine was officially recommended for an award of distinction in consideration of his contribution to French colonial expansion in the remotest parts of Indochina (30).

 

Mr. Mahamedbhay was only one of the many civil servants and military personnel who, by serving the French colonial cause on the Hoang Sa Islands, directly contributed to the preservation of Vietnamese rights which had only temporarily been exercised by the French. At an early stage,, French action had been only intermittent - intermittence which is not at all incompatible with the maintenance of the rights but in the last 30 years of their presence, the French did fulfill all the obligations of a holder of title. Thus the French accomplished a valuable conservator act in the safeguarding of legitimacy for the Vietnamese sovereignty over the Hoang Sa Islands.

 

Return to Vietnamese sovereignty

 

After the French-Vietnamese Agreement of March 8, 1949, Vietnam gradually regained its independence. Although some French troops were intermittently stationed on some of the Hoang Sa Islands until 1956, it was on October 14, 1950 that the French formally turned over the defense of the archipelago to the Vietnamese. General Phan Van Gao, then Governor of Central Vietnam, went in person to Pattle Island to preside over the ceremony. The general made the trip to the remote and isolated island because, as he reported to Prime Minister Tran Van Huu in Saigon:

 

"I was persuaded that my presence among the Viet Binh Doan (Regional Guard Unit) would have a comforting impact on its morale on the day the unit took over heavy responsibilities" (31).

 

No doubt Premier Tran Van Huu was pleased by the Govemor's initiative, since in the following year (1951) he was to attend the San Francisco Peace Conference with Japan where he solemnly and unequivocally reaffirmed the rights of his country over both the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes. After its defeat in 1945, Japan had relinquished all its claims to these islands that their forces had occupied. This matter will be discussed further in another chapter.

 

Reassuming all responsibilities for the Hoang Sa archipelago, the Vietnamese felt that it was more practical to re-incorporate it as part of Quang Nam Province (as things were before the French decree of 1932) because links between these insular territories and the mainland had always originated from the Quang Nam provincial capital of Da Nang. A proposal to that end was made in 1951 by regional authorities in Hue (32), but it was a full ten years later that the President of the Republic, Ngo Dinh Diem, signed a Decree (33) transferring the Hoang Sa Islands from the jurisdiction of Thua Thien Province back to Quang Nam.

 

The entire archipelago was given the status of a "Xa" (village on the mainland). Administrative organization was again perfected 8 years later: by a Prime Minister's Decree (34) the islands became part of a village on the mainland of Quang Nam, the village of Hoa Long, Hoa Vang District.

 

Most Vietnamese officials posted on the Hoang Sa Islands were thus from Quang Nam Province and usually detached for about a year from their regular position on the mainland. The first civilian officer to be appointed by an independent Vietnamese Government was M. Nguyen Ba Thuoc (appointed December 14, 1960 by Arrete No. 241-13NV/NV/3).

 

After 1963 however, due to war conditions in the Republic of Vietnam, the administrative officers- assigned there have always been military men. They were usually NCOs in command of the Regional Forces stationed on Duncan Island. Thus they bore the title of "Duncan Island Chief", concurrently in charge of Administrative affairs for the Hoang Sa Islands.

 

Whether civilian or military, these officers helped ensure peaceful Vietnamese sovereignty over the islands. Scientific surveys continued, with Vietnamese scientists joining their French colleagues in order to deepen the knowledge about these remote territories. Manned by Vietnamese technicians, the Pattle Weather Station continued providing the world with meteorological data until its forced closure in 1974. The exploitation of phosphate resumed after 1956 with the following yields:

 

* 1957-58-59 8,000 metric tons
* 1960 1,570 metric tons
* 1961 2,654 metric tons
* 1962 and after 12,000 metric tons extracted, but left on the islands.

 

In 1956 the Ministry of Economy granted the first license to exploit phosphate on the 3 islands of Vinh Lac (Money Island), Cam Tuyen (Roberts) and Hoang Sa (Pattle) to a Saigon businessman named Le Van Cang. In 1959, a license was issued to the "Vietnam Fertilizers Company" which contracted actual extraction and transportation to a Singapore company Yew Huatt (4, New Bridge Road, Singapore 1).

 

Among other clauses, the Vietnamese Company committed itself to obtain from the Government of the Republic of Vietnam the granting of fiscal exemptions and the privilege to use radio facilities 4 the Pattle Weather Station. After 1960, commercial exploitation of Pattle was granted to the Vietnam Phosphate Company, which stopped all operations in 1963 because of insufficient returns. Interests in phosphate exploitation surfaced again in 1973 when the Republic of Vietnam faced serious problems of fertilizer shortage.

 

In August of that year, the "Vietnam Fertilizer Industry Company" finished a feasibility study conducted jointly with a Japanese partner, Marubeni Corporation of Tokyo. The survey on the islands lasted two weeks, and Marubeni Corporation provided the engineers needed.

 

It is no wonder that the exercise of normal sovereignty by the Republic of Vietnam has had to be coupled with actions which are more or less military-oriented. Confronting unfounded claims by China in the Hoang Sa Islands, the Armed Forces of the Republic have been required to display constant vigilance in the defense of this part of Vietnamese territory. As an example, when the Chinese nationalist troops which had refused to leave Phu Lam (Wooded or Boisee) Island in 1947 withdrew in 1950 following Marshall Chiang Kai Shek's defeat, Communist Chinese troops landed there immediately to continue the illegal occupation. A Vietnamese Navy unit assumed responsibility for the defense of the archipelago in 1956. This unit was relieved the following year by a Marine Company. After 1959, the task was assigned to Regional Forces of Quang Nam Province.

 

Vietnamese warships have patrolled the Hoang Sa waters regularly in order to check illegal occupants on the many islands. In this regard, the People's Republic of China appears to have followed guerrilla-type tactics: it surreptitiously introduced first fishermen, then soldiers onto Vietnamese territory. They even built strong fortifications on the two islands of Phu Lam and Linh Con. On February 22, 1959, the Republic of Vietnam's Navy thwarted this tactic by arresting 80 fishermen from mainland China who had landed on the three islands of Cam Tuyen, Duy Mong and Quang Hoa. These fishermen were humanely treated and promptly released with all their equipment after being taken to Da Nang.

 

The broad range of actions by the Vietnamese authorities regarding the Hoang Sa Islands provides an undeniable evidence of Vietnamese sovereignty. These actions include, among others, the approval of international contracts connected with the islands' economy ; police operations against aliens; extraction of natural resources ; the providing of guarantees to other states; and so forth. Vietnamese sovereignty was first built between the 15th and 18th centuries, consecrated by the Nguyen emperors, then temporarily assumed by the French, and finally continued in a normal manner by independent Vietnam.

 

The exercise of Vietnamese jurisdiction was effectively displayed under a large variety of forms. It was open, peaceful, and not, like the Communist Chinese claim, asserted jure belli. Any interruption of Vietnamese sovereignty was due only to foreign powers' illegal military actions against which Vietnam, or France on behalf of Vietnam, had always protested in a timely fashion. Convinced of their legitimate rights over the Hoang Sa Islands, the Vietnamese will never indulge in compromises in the defense of their territorial integrity (see Chapter IV).

 

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