Vietnamese historians on Monday assembled for a conference in central Hue City to reassert Hanoi’s immutable sovereignty over its archipelagoes of Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) in the East Vietnam Sea.
The conference came four days after the Chinese Navy’s commemoration of the so-called 70th anniversary of recovering the two groups of islands, an action that has been condemned by Vietnam.
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Le Hai Binh on Monday said his country resolutely opposes the commemoration by the Chinese Navy, adding it has “sufficient historical evidence and legal foundations to affirm its sovereignty over [the archipelagoes].”
“[China’s activity] will not alter Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Paracels and Spratlys,” the spokesman emphasized during Monday’s press briefing in Hanoi.
From the emperors
In 1816, Vietnamese Emperor Gia Long sent a fleet of naval soldiers to plant Vietnam’s flag on the Paracels, a concrete assertion of the country’s sovereignty over the islands and the East Vietnam Sea.
“For the past 200 years since, Vietnam’s historical sovereignty over the East Vietnam Sea and the two archipelagoes has been consistent despite several changes to the status quo,” said Assoc. Prof. Do Bang, chairman of Thua Thien-Hue Association of Historical Science.
Archeological excavations carried out between 1993 and 1999 on the archipelagoes’ major islands of Truong Sa Lon, Nam Yet (Namyit), Sinh Ton (Sin Cowe), and Son Ca (Sand Cay) found relics and artifacts dating back to the Early Iron Age, according to Prof. Dr. Nguyen Quang Ngoc, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Association of Historical Science.
Archeological explorations on six other islands in the Spratlys during the period resulted in similar findings, Ngoc said.
The age of the artifacts corresponds to the Vietnamese civilizations of Late Sa Huynh and Early Champa.
Further explorations in 2014 on four islands of the Spratlys found ceramic artifacts similar to those used by the Sa Huynh people of ancient Vietnam.
“There’s abundant evidence to back the assertion that [the archipelagoes] have been continuously occupied and inhabited by Vietnamese people for centuries since ancient times,” Ngoc said.
The assertion of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the groups of islands was strengthened over the 17th century under the reign of the Nguyen Lords in southern Vietnam, who fortified the country’s navy and encouraged offshore fishing among their fishermen.
Groups of Vietnamese fishermen were sent to inhabit the archipelagoes while collecting their aquatic resources, while troops of elite naval soldiers were also tasked with defending the islands.
To modern leaders
After the end of feudalism in Vietnam in the 1940s, generations of Vietnamese leaders have since carried on the rightful mission of asserting Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Spratlys and Paracels.
During the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951, attended by leaders of 51 allied nations, then-Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam Tran Van Huu confirmed Vietnam’s “long-standing sovereignty” over the two archipelagoes, facing no objection from other world leaders.
Vietnamese leaders of both the Republic of Vietnam and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam consistently voiced resolute opposition to China’s unlawful invasion of the islands in 1956 and 1974, according to historian Nguyen Dinh Dung from Phu Xuan University in Hue.
“Among the countries involved in the East Vietnam Sea disputes, none have had a history of consistent assertion of sovereignty by their leaders like Vietnam has,” said Dr. Nguyen Nha. “It only serves to prove Vietnam’s righteousness in its actions.”