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Sovereignty over Paracel and Spratly Archipelagoes

International law and sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes (Part 15)

Part 15: The inviolable right to succession

Since 1949, the political changes in some regional countries has led to the appearance of new state entities involving in the dispute in the East Sea (South China Sea). Here, the issue of the right to succession is of importance.

Immediately after the end of World War II, the French government in Indochina restored their presence in both the Hoàng Sa (Paracel) and Trường Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes, which had been occupied by Japanese troops during World War II. The gunships Escarmouche and Savorgnan de Blazza, from May 20th to June 6th, 1946 arrived in the Hoàng Sa archipelago for exploration. The islands were deserted. The Japanese Navy left the islands after destroying all the construction works and seaports there [1].

A French army unit landed on Hoàng Sa Islands for its recapture [2]. They carried out the re-occupation for Annam, while affirming both physical and intentional factors. On October 1st, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was born. As for France, the military camp on Hoàng Sa Island continued to be maintained for the protection of the meteorological station “by every means” in case of attacks from outside [3].

The March 8th 1949, Agreement with France led to the advent of a Vietnamese state within the French Union. Later, in a press conference, the Chief of the Office of King Bảo Đại reaffirmed the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagoes belonged to the Kingdom of Annam.

On October 14th, 1950, the French government officially handed over to the Bảo Đại government the management and defense of the Hoàng Sa archipelago. Mr. Phan Văn Giáo, the General Governor of Central Vietnam arrived in Hoàng Sa to host the power transfer ceremony. Groups of the French troops stationed in the Hoàng Sa archipelago until 1956. In the Agreements reached in Geneva in 1954, these archipelagoes were transferred to the South Vietnamese administration for its control. After the French troops left, on August 22nd, 1956, the Saigon administration immediately established its control on the two archipelagoes.

In fact, the Saigon administration was the legitimate successor of the titles, rights and claims left by the French concerning the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagoes. In the capacity of a state that owned the titles, they carried out the administrative organization, surveys and economic exploitation and protection of the two archipelagoes. Administratively, the Hoàng Sa archipelago, which had belonged to Thừa Thiên province previously was merged into the province of Quảng Nam by Decree N174-NV dated July 13th, 1961. For the Trường Sa archipelago, the naval forces of the Saigon administration landed on the main island on August 22nd, 1956. They planted flags and erected sovereignty markers on the Trường Sa Island. By decree 143/VN dated October 20th, 1956, the Saigon administration merged the archipelago into Phước Tuy province. From 1962 – 1964, the Saigon Naval troops landed on the islands of Trường Sa, An Bang, Loại Ta, Thị Tứ, Song Tử Đông, Song Tử Tây, and Nam Yết… and planted sovereignty markers thereon. On September 6th, 1973, by Decree N 420 – BNV/HCDP/26, the Saigon administration merged the Trường Sa archipelago into Phước Hải commune, Đất Đỏ district, Phước Tuy province.

The Saigon administration troops also confronted the military campaign launched by China on January 19th, 1974 to invade the group of islands west of the Hoàng Sa Archipelago.At the second session of the third meeting of the UN on the Law of the Sea held in Caracas on February 2nd, 1974, the Saigon delegates denounced the invasion of the Hoàng Sa archipelago by force and reaffirmed that “Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa are an integral part of the territory of Vietnam” and “Vietnam’s sovereignty over these archipelagoes are indisputable and inalienable”.

In March 1965, the Central Committee of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam declared: “The heroic people of South Vietnam decided … to liberate its territory and set up an independent nation.” In January 1969, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam was officially founded and became active. After the great Spring victory on April 30th, 1975, from May 1975, the Government of the Republic of South Vietnam made statements on inheriting the Saigon administration in international organizations such as WHO, UNESCO, UTT and others. This inheritance reflects the succession principle applied by states following the change of governments.

On July 2nd, 1976, the Vietnamese people resorted to its right of national self-determination in choosing the path of national reunification under the name of a new state. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is the legal successor state of the two previous states, namely the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Republic of South Vietnam, taking over the regular title of the Saigon administration to the two archipelagoes of Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa. The rights and obligations therefrom shall be continually implemented by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and such succession is totally reasonable, lawful and inviolable.

By Dr. Nguyễn Hồng Thao

[1] Official letter N 5454 N sent by the High Commissioner in Indochina to France on June 3rd, 1946. Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, File 214, Page 1.
[2] J.P. Ferrier, the cited book, page 191.
[3] Heinzig, the cited book, page 35

Source: Thanh Nien Daily

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