East Sea warms int’l conference on Vietnamese studies
VietNamNet Bridge - On the opening day of the fourth international conference on Vietnamese studies in Hanoi, which draws nearly 1,000 scientists from 36 countries and territories, the East Sea issue attracted the attention of many attendants.

Dr. Erik Franckx (right) and Prof. Vladimir Kotolov.

Though the East Sea conflict was not a separate topic, it was discussed at two out of 15 sub-committees of the conference on November 26. Many issues related to the sovereignty of Vietnam related to the two archipelagoes of Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly), China’s U-shaped, etc. line were discussed.

According to Associate Professor Do Bang from the Hue University of Science, the exercise of sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos was conducted very early by the kings of the Nguyen Dynasty.

In the first half of the 19th century, these kings took effective measures to perform Vietnam’s sovereignty over the two archipelagos, such as the establishment of the Hoang Sa flotilla, hydraulic measurements, mapping, placing sovereignty steles, building temples, planting trees and setting up tax collection stations on the islands.

The implementation of Vietnam’s sovereignty of the Nguyen Dynasty was assigned to the royal marine corps in cooperation with the local soldiers and fishermen of Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh provinces. The kings directly considered and approved important documents related to these archipelagos.

The implementation of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the two archipelagos in the Nguyen Dynasty is noted in the Nguyen Dynasty’s official documents, official history books as Dai Nam Thuc Luc, Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi and maps of the Nguyen Dynasty as well as ancient documents collected in Quang Ngai, Thua Thien Hue in recent times.

Mentioning China’s U-shaped line in the East Sea, Dr. Erik Franckx from Vrije University (Brussels, Belgium) said that the U-shaped line officially appeared in 2009 when it was attached to China’s note to the United Nations against Vietnam’s report and the joint report of Vietnam and Vietnam - Malaysia on the continental shelf boundary beyond 200 nautical miles from the baseline. Though it was firstly outlined in 1940, China had never made public it to the international community.

The professor said that 2009 is the milestone marking important events for the recent conflict in the East Sea. However, so far, China has not yet clarified the meaning of this line.

From the perspective of international law, Associate Professor Nguyen Ba from the Hanoi National University affirmed that Vietnam is confident to have sufficient historical and scientific grounds to prove its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa and to dismiss the U-shaped line. "We have carefully studied the arguments of China and found that their arguments on the U-shaped line are very vague," he said.

Professor Vladimir Kotolov from the University of St. Petersburg, Russian said that the current situation is creating conditions for both China and the United States to start the geopolitical game as in the chessboard and "Vietnam exists between the hammer and the anvil."

"Now, Vietnam (including Hoang Sa and Truong Sa) is a region of fierce competition between the major powers. The use of Vietnamese factor can promote or prevent the strategic expansion of China to the south", Prof. Kotolov identified.

Associate Professor Tran Khanh from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies said that ASEAN's role in preventing the conflict in the East Sea is very important. However, its member states are facing the risk of losing unity.

Professor Do Tien Sam from the Institute of Chinese Studies, whose involvement in the nine-year negotiation of the delimitation in the Tonkin Gulf, said by the signing of the agreement on the delimitation in the Tonkin Gulf, for the first time, Vietnam and China have a clear border, including maritime frontiers, boundaries of the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf between the two countries in the Gulf.

According to the professor, this agreement along with the agreement on fishery cooperation is valuable for reference for researching and solving the problems of fisheries in the East Sea. At the same time, it demonstrates the willingness of Vietnam in addressing the issues of borders, territorial waters, continental shelf through peaceful negotiations.

Professor Nguyen Quang Ngoc who chaired the discussion said that although Vietnam has so far organized several workshops on the East Sea but it is not enough.

With the theme "Vietnam on the way of integration and sustainable development", the conference focuses on all aspects of integration and sustainable development. The event will close on November 29.

Compiled by Tran Cham
Vietnam, East Sea, international conference, Vietnamese studies, scholars