|Phu Lam (Woody) island of the Spratly archipelago was illegally occupied by China (Photo: CSIS/AMTI.)
The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on April 18 that the State Council of China has recently approved the establishment of the Xisha and Nansha districts under Sansha city, Hainan province. Accordingly, the Xisha administration will be based in Woody Island, of the Paracel while the Nansha administration will be placed in the Fiery Cross Reef of the Spratly.
This action constitutes a serious violation of international law, especially a clear infringement of Vietnam’s indisputable sovereignty and sovereign rights over the two archipelagoes in the East Sea.
The Fiery Cross Reef is one of the seven marine features in Vietnam’s Spratly archipelago where China has illegally built artificial islands and constructed various civilian and military structures.
China has vowed not to militarise the islands, but the action runs counter to what it has already pledged.
Vietnam has repeatedly asserted its legal sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes, and at the same time called on China and concerned parties to respect Vietnam's sovereignty in accordance with international law.
At a regular press conference on March 26, 2020, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang stressed, “Vietnam has repeatedly stated it has sufficient historical and legal evidence to prove its sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes in line with international law. As a result of this legal proof, all activities that take place there must be subject to permission being granted by Vietnam.”
“Vietnam asks China to respect Vietnamese sovereignty by not taking action to increase tensions, complicate the situation, and affect peace and stability in the East Sea and the region, as well as the countries’ ongoing efforts in negotiating the Code of Conduct in the East Sea between ASEAN and China.”