White Paper on the
Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands
Republic of Vietnam
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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
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
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
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.
THE EXERCISE OF VIETNAMESE SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE HOANG
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
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
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"
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
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
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,
- 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
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:
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
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"
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.
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
* 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,
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).