White Paper on the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands
Republic of Vietnam
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Vietnamese archipelagoes of Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) are both situated in the South China Sea off the Republic of Vietnam's shore. Their very modest size by no means lesser the importance given them by the Vietnamese: to Vietnamese hearts, these remote insular territories are as dear as could be any other part of the fatherland. The Hoang Sa Islands to the North were occupied by force of arms by the People's Republic of China on January 20, 1974, following a brazen act of invasion which left the world extremely indignant. As for the Truong Sa Islands 500 km to the South, two other foreign powers are illegally stationing troops on four of the main islands in the archipelago.
The Government of the Republic of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people, determined to defend their sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country, solemnly denounce the occupation of these Vietnamese territories by foreign troops. Regarding the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands, not only was the gross violation of Vietnamese sovereignty by the People's Republic of China a defiance of the law of nations and the Charter of the United Nations: in-as-much as this involved the use of force by a world power against a small country in Asia, it also constitutes a threat to peace and stability in South East Asia In the case of the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands, although foreign occupation was not preceded by bloodshed, it nevertheless represents a grave violation of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Vietnam. The rights of the Vietnamese people over those islands have been as firmly established there as on the Hoang Sa archipelago.
The Republic of Vietnam fulfils all the conditions required by international law to assert its claim to possession of these islands. Throughout the course of history, the Vietnamese had already accomplished the gradual consolidation of their rights on the Hoang Sa Islands. By the early 19th century, a systematic policy of effective occupation was implemented by Vietnamese emperors The Truong Sa Islands, known to and exploited by Vietnamese fishermen and laborers for many centuries, were formally incorporated into Vietnamese territory by France on behalf of Vietnam. On both archipelagoes, Vietnamese civil servants assured a peaceful and effective exercise of Vietnamese jurisdiction. The continuous display of state authority was coupled with the constant Vietnamese will to remain the owner of a legitimate title over those islands. Thus military defense of the archipelagoes and diplomatic activities were put forth in the face of false claims from other countries in the area. Vietnamese rights being indisputable, the People's Republic of China chose to resort to military force in order to assert her sudden claims to the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands. Two other foreign powers took advantage of the war situation in Vietnam to militarily occupy some of the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands over which they have no legal rights. Since both the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Archipelagoes are situated below the 17th parallel, this is primarily a matter of concern for the Republic of Vietnam.
This White Paper is designed to demonstrate the validity of the claims made by the Republic of Vietnam . It is also an appeal for justice to the conscience of all law-abiding and peace-loving nations in the world.
Proclamation by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam (1974)
The noblest and most imperative task of a Government is to defend the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Nation. The Government of the Republic of Vietnam is determined to carry out this task, regardless of difficulties it may encounter and regardless of unfounded objections wherever they may come from.
In the face of the illegal military occupation by Communist China of the Paracels Archipelago which is an integral part of the Republic of Vietnam, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam deems it necessary to solemnly declare before world opinion, to friends and foes alike, that :
The Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes are an indivisible part of the territory of the Republic of Vietnam. The Government and People of the Republic of Vietnam shall not yield to force and renounce all or part of their sovereignty over those archipelagoes. As long as one single island of that part of the territory of the Republic of Vietnam is forcibly occupied by another country, the Government and People of the Republic will continue their struggle to recover their legitimate rights.
The illegal occupant will have to bear all responsibility for any tension arising wherefrom (therefrom).
On this occasion, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam also solemnly reaffirms the sovereignty of the Republic of Vietnam over the islands off the shores of Central and South Vietnam, which have been consistently accepted as a part of the territory of the Republic of Vietnam on the basis of undeniable geographic, historical and legal evidence and on account of realities.
The Government of the Republic of Vietnam is determined to defend the sovereignty of the Nation over those islands by all and every means.
In keeping with its traditionally peaceful policy, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam is disposed to solve, through negotiations, international disputes which may arise over those islands, but this does not mean that it shall renounce its sovereignty over any part of its national territory.
(Proclamation by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam dated February 14, 1974)
The Early Historical Rights of Vietnam
The Vietnamese have had knowledge of the Hoang Sa Islands long before the arrival to the South China Sea of Westerners who publicized internationally the name of "Paracels" for this part of their territory. It has been scientifically determined that the Vietnamese presence on this archipelago started in the 15th century. The systematic exploitation of the islands' resources started early and gradually developed Vietnamese interest in these territories, leading in the 18th century to official state decision such as the formation of the Hoang Sa Company to ensure a rational exploitation of those islands. As evidenced by reliable Vietnamese and foreign sources, Vietnam progressively asserted her rights and the Hoang Sa archipelago was formally taken possession of the Vietnamese authorities in the year 1816.
The Hoang Sa Archipelago is a string of islets off the Vietnamese coast between 111 and 113 degrees longitude East of Greenwich, and between 15045' and 17015' North latitude. The nearest island in the archipelago is roughly at equal distance from the coast of Vietnam and the southern shore of Hainan Island in China. Using Pattle Island (dao Hoang Sa), the largest of the group, as a point of reference, the distances are as follows:
Pattle to the Vietnamese harbor of Danang: 200 nautical miles. (Pattle to the closest shore of Cu Lao Re' Vietnam : 123 nautical miles).
Pattle to the closest shore on Hainan (Island): 150 nautical miles.
Pattle to the closest shore in the Philippines: 450 nautical miles.
Pattle to the closest shore in Taiwan: 620 nautical miles.
The Hoang Sa Islands are divided into two groups: to the East lies the Tuyen Duc (or Amphitrite) Group and to the West lies the Nguyet Thiem (or Crescent) Group. The main islands are:
Tuyen Duc Group:
Dao Bac-North Island
Dao Trung - Middle Island