Vietnam, China, and the Paracels (2)
As early as 1956, China, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the French expeditionary force from Indochina, quietly occupied the eastern part of the Paracel archipelago.
On January 15, 1974, a year after the signing of the Paris Treaty which limited the presence of American troops in South Vietnam, Beijing sent troops to the western islands of the Paracels.
On the fateful day, the 19th of January, 1974, the Chinese navy completed its invasion of the western islands despite the fierce resistance of the Vietnamese Navy.
Vietnam’s representative to the United Nations brought the matter to the United Nations’ Security Council. Diplomatic notes were sent to all the signatories of the Paris Agreement. However, China, with its veto power in the Security Council, stalled whatever significant efforts made by the Vietnamese government.
On February 7, 1974, Vietnam’s representative to the United Nations delivered a statement at the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) asserting Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Paracels. Despite Vietnam’s protests, China occupied and developed infrastructure within the Paracels. In 1975, with the unification of Vietnam, It declared explicit sovereignty over the Paracels.
From Vietnam’s point of view, China’s intervention on the Paracel Islands in 1974 was in utter disregard for International Law which includes the principles of acquisition of territory which cannot be done by force as clearly stated in the UN Charter.
It is considered illegal for another state to use force or threat to use force because a territory of a state shall not be the object of military occupation by another.
Every state has the duty to refrain from the use of force to encroach on the existing border with another country.
The world is governed by laws and not of men or force thereby making gunboat diplomacy illegal and such use of force cannot and will never be the basis of laws.
(To be continued)