Questions surround purpose of China establishing “Xisha” and “Nansha"

VOV.VN -Amidst failure to comply with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, regardless of the continued negative reaction internationally, China continues to pursue course of actions that go against international rules and convention in the East Sea, known globally as the South China Sea.

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China has built runways and hangars, and placed illegal radar facilities on the Fiery Cross Reef and Spratly Islands. (Image: AMTI)

After taking over the Vietnamese sovereign territories of the Paracel Islands, also known as Hoang Sa, in 1956, followed by in the Spratly Islands, also known as Truong Sa, in 1988, the northern neighbour has subsequently carried out a series of wrongful activities in the area. This has led to instability in the East Sea and throughout the region, complicating the situation locally and making it more unpredictable.

Recent years have seen China ramp up its civil and military activities in the area, with the most recent example coming in 2019 when the Hai Duong 8 Geological Ship Group, along with other militia ships, were infringed on Vietnamese territorial water for over 100 days.

This year alone has seen Chinese ships invade the waters of both Malaysia and the Philippines, whilst encroaching upon Indonesia's waters at the end of 2019 and in early 2020. Indeed, in early April a Chinese fishing vessel sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel in a stretch of water close to Hoang Sa.

With the Hai Duong 8 Geological Ship Group being closely followed internationally as it conducts a survey near Malaysian waters, April 18 saw the northern neighbour violate Vietnamese sovereignty once more with an announcement by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs that the State Council of China had approved the establishment of the so-called "Xisha district" and "Nansha district" in Sansha city of Hainan province.

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Ass. Prof. Vu Thanh Ca, Former Director of the International Cooperation Department under the General Department of Sea and Islands of Vietnam

According to Ass. Prof. Vu Thanh Ca, Former Director of the International Cooperation Department in the General Department of Sea and Islands of Vietnam, this action is unacceptable.

"This is one of the Chinese steps in an attempt to realise its strategy to occupy the whole East Sea. As we know, they had previously declared the so-called "cow's tongue line" or "nine-dash line" in the East Sea - which was banned by the Court of Arbitration’s judgment in 2016," Ass. Prof. Ca said.

Questions remain as to what is behind the administrative decision by China to pursue their claims further. Dr. Tran Cong Truc, Former Head of the Government Border Committee, and an individual who has spent many years researching the East Sea, said that they are following an ambitious policy that causes tension with a "soft invasion", with steps taken in order to explore and evaluate the reaction of countries that claim territory in the East Sea.

Indeed, the act of their maritime vessels sinking a Vietnamese fishing vessel served to create a panic among fishermen who conduct their business in a peaceful manner on the sea. Shortly after this incident, the group accompanying the Hai Duong 8 geological survey ship in the East Sea followed a Malaysian oil tanker into Malaysian waters.

The incident continues to be escalated by China with its decision to establish two administrative units and naming dozens of entities to manage the Vietnamese territories of the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes.

"This is a plot of attacks that are steps in a "soft invasion”. They use these measures to gradually realise the claim, especially within the scope of sea routes, and create the border they want. There is intrigue in the field and they're taking advantage of the situation to do wrong things, which is clearly a violation of the nation’s sovereignty. As such, it proves that China disregards all provisions of international law and international practices to carry out these activities. As long as it is possible to implement its conspiracy to monopolise the East Sea according to their U-shaped line claim, despite being rejected internationally and regionally, and by arbitral tribunals, " Dr. Truc stated.

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Dr. Tran Cong Truc, Former Head of the Government Border Committee

Echoing these views, researcher Hoang Viet affirmed that the Chinese government's approval to establish two administrative areas in the form of “Xisha district” and “Nansha district” to manage the Paracel and Spratly Islands is a wrong act that complicates the regional situation whilst adversely affecting the negotiation process of the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

Therefore, the announcement of the establishment of “Xisha district” and “Nansha district” as administrative areas clearly demonstrates their attempt to monopolise the East Sea by any means necessary. This has had a huge impact on the peaceful and safe environment of the East Sea, especially with ASEAN and China being in the process of seeking dialogue for the signing of the COC to ease tensions in the region.  These negative actions have contributed to rising tensions in this area, the researcher added.

Dr. Ngo Huu Phuoc from the Department of International Law at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law, said that although steps were carefully planned by China, they remain controversial because its ambition is set to greatly affect the interests of many countries, not simply those in Southeast Asia.

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Dr. Ngo Huu Phuoc from the Department of International Law at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law

"For all the actions that China has taken so far, we can recognize that they are increasingly expanding their own strategy. If they continue to encroach, the international community’s area, a place for maritime and aviation activities, will be narrowed, therefore seriously affect international trade,” Dr. Phuoc said.

Indeed, China’s repeated infringements upon Vietnamese islands and territorial waters is a serious misconduct that violates the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, with this actions being opposed by the wider international community. Vietnam has sufficient historical evidence and legal grounds to assert its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos in accordance with international law, he emphasized.

VOV