| Global Times | March 20, 2012 20:13
By Global Times
A recent move by Vietnam authorities to challenge China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands has attracted attention in China.
The Vietnamese claimed that they own three Buddhist temples located on three isles of the Nansha Islands and were going to send six monks to these locations to refurbish the temples and hold rituals for six months starting from April. The Vietnamese government will also allow the monks to stay there longer should they wish to continue their practices.
However, the three isles don't belong to Vietnam, and nor were these isles, as some media analysts have argued, abandoned by the Vietnamese. They are part of China's sovereign territory but were invaded by South Vietnam in 1973 and were never returned to China after Vietnamese reunification. The reunited Vietnam government further invaded six other isles in this area. From 1978-98, the Vietnamese forcefully seized another 23 of the Nansha Islands from China.
Sending monks to the three isles where temples were built is in fact part of Vietnam's plan to permanently claim sovereignty over the Nansha Islands. The country already stated its intention in the early 1990s to occupy and incorporate both the Nansha and the Xisha Islands into its territory. Over the past 20 years, the Vietnamese government has released a series of policies and regulations to back this up, in which its central departments and local governments along the coastline were assigned specific tasks. The latest move of sending monks to the Nansha Islands was backed by the local authorities in the southern province of Khanh Hoa.
In order to occupy the Nansha Islands, the Vietnamese government has previously planned similar moves under a religious guise. For instance, in April 2011, the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung sent two Buddhist statues to different isles, thus creating the prefect excuse for the its move today.
But why have the Vietnamese been so persistent in violating Chinese sovereignty?
The answer lies in the part of history where China was constantly bullied and abused by foreign powers. In 1933, the French colonists, who at that time controlled Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, forcefully expelled Chinese fishermen from the Nansha Islands and claimed the islands as their own. The Nansha Islands, and also the Xisha Islands, were later seized by the Japanese after 1939 once they defeated the French.
After World War II, as a member of the winning side, the Republic of China retrieved both islands from the Japanese in 1946 in accordance with the spirit of the Cairo Declaration signed in 1943 and the Potsdam Declaration signed in 1945.
However, the treaty of peace with Japan signed in 1951 in San Francisco worsened the situation because it didn't specify who would retrieve the islands after Japan renounced its claims there. The deliberate exclusion of a Chinese presence, since most countries didn't yet recognize the People's Republic of China, violated international law and conventions concerning this matter.
The law of the jungle still dominates. If China's constant diplomatic claims can't prevent its sovereignty being violated, it must consider effective alternatives to settle this.
There are many things that China can do. We can refer to neighboring countries' fishing laws, and add into our own fishing law content about safeguarding sovereignty and territory. And our media should also do more reports on what's really happening to our fishermen in this region.
The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Gao Lei based on an interview with Sun Xiaoying, a researcher on Southeast Asia with the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences. firstname.lastname@example.org
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