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Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos has been studied with great concern by scholars at home and abroad after China's occupation by force of the Hoàng Sa archipelago in 1974 under the management of the government of the Republic of Vietnam. This topic has been an ever-stronger attraction since May 2014 when China placed its HD 981 oil rig deep inside Vietnam's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.

01/10/2018 10:26:00

Chapter I


  1.  East Sea - an overview
  2.  A few lines about the Vietnam sea
    1.  Geographical position and natural features of the Vietnamese sea
    2.  Natural resources         
  3.  The two archipelagos Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa in the East Sea     
    1.  Geographical position and natural features
    2.  The geo-political position of two archipelagos  
    3.  Natural resources in the area of the two archipelagos 

Chapter II


  1.  The East Sea at the dawn of the era of the national construction and defense
    1.  The Đông Sơn cultural space - The Văn Lang, Âu Lạc states and the Northern domination period
    2.  The Sa Huỳnh cultural space - The Lâm Ấp, Champa States The Óc Eo cultural space - The Kingdom of Phil Nam and the Phù Nam Empire
  2.  The East Sea and the south advancing road of the Đại Việt nation from the 11th to the 16th century   
    1.  Opening the road to advance southwards and the marine strategy of the Lý Dynasty
    2.  Đông A's indomitable spirit and Bạch Đằng's great victory in 1288        
    3.  The East Sea and the Lê dynasty's expansion of boder land
    4.  The Mạc Dynasty and the seaward vision

Chapter III





  1. Lord Tiên and Lord Sãi with tens of thousands of nautical miles of the East Sea
    1.  Lord Tiên - the trail blazer in the new stage of the Southward advance
    2.  Lord Sãi - the Lord with the territorial expansion exploits
  2.  The Hoàng Sa detachment in special charge of exploiting and defending the East Sea on the outer line
    1.  The point of time when the Hoàng Sa detachment came into being
    2.  The homeland of the Hoàng Sa detachment
    3.  The organization and operation of the Hoàng Sa detachment
  3.  The Bắc Hải detachment with the task of exploiting and guarding the Southern part of the East Sea
    1.  The point of time when the Bắc Hải detachment came into being
    2.  The homeland, function, and operation of the Bắc Hải detachment
  4.  Operations of the Hoàng Sa, Bắc Hải detachments under the reign of Tây Sơn

Chapter IV


  1.  Under the reign of King Gia Long (1802-1819)
    1.  King Gia Long and his famous career on the sea
    2.  Reestablishment of Hoàng Sa and Bắc Hải detachments in the direction of strengthening the capacity of activities of defending the sovereignty over the sea
    3.  Integrating activities of Hoàng Sa and Bắc Hải detachments with marine detachment, affirming the full and complete sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa
    4.  Sovereignty of King Gia Long in Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa in the contemporary Westerners' awareness
  2.  Under the reign of King Minh Mệnh (1820-1840)
    1.  Completing the integration of Hoàng Sa and Bắc Hải detachments into Marine detachment, improving the capabilities of defending the sovereignty over the sea and islands
    2.  Measuring and mapping Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa: The special task and the outstanding achievement of the Minh Mệnh dynasty
    3.  The capabilities of sovereignty activities of Vietnam in Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa reach the acme of the monarchy period
  3.  From the reign of King Thiệu Trị to the last decade of the 19th  century when the country no longer had independence
    1.  Under the reign of King Thiệu Trị (1841-1847)
    2.  Under the reign of King Tự Đức (1848-1883)
    3.  The end of the 19th century when the country no longer had independence

Chapter V


1. Disputes and debates of sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos of Vietnam from 1909 to 1939

  1.  China declared its sovereignty over Xisha, ushering in the period of disputes and debates of sovereignty over the archipelagos in the middle of the East Sea
  2.  Expansion on paper did not go along with the acts of the de facto possession of archipelagos in the middle of the East Sea by the Republic of China

1.3.  From the "turn-a-blind-eye" attitude to the determination of Franceto seize and protect sovereignty over the archipelagos in the middle of the East Sea on the basis of the true and age-old sovereignty of the Kingdom of An Nam

  1.  The disputing parties sought all opportunities to perfect their sovereignty title and the attitude of the international community from 1939 to 1955
    1.  Japan occupied the archipelagos in the Second World War and committed renouncing all the right, sovereignty title and claim over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa after the end of the war
    2.  China perfected its plot of having a sole control of the East Sea and the unrecognition by the international community
    3.  The Government of the French Union and the inheritance of sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa of the National Government of Vietnam
  2.  Sovereignty of Vietnam and occupation status of the disputing parties in Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa since 1956 
    1.  The period under the government of the Republic of Vietnam in the South from 1956 to 1975       
    2.  The period of a Vietnam of reunification, renovation and international integration since 1975 


Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos has been studied with great concern by scholars at home and abroad after China's occupation by force of the Hoàng Sa archipelago in 1974 under the management of the government of the Republic of Vietnam. This topic has been an ever-stronger attraction since May 2014 when China placed its HD 981 oil rig deep inside Vietnam's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.

International scholars, including overseas Vietnamese scholars, have carried out a lot of research works on Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos, in which the most painstaking and systematic research work is La souveraineté surarchipels Paracels et Spratlys (the sovereignty over the Paracels and Spratlys archipelagos) by Monique Chemilier-Gendreau (1996). Within Vietnam, right from 1974, there was the White Paper on the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Vietnam (1974) and Les archipels de Hoàng Sa et Trường Sa selong lé anciensouvrages vietnamiensd' histoire et de géographie (The Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos via the historical and geographical works of Vietnam) by Võ Long Tê (1974). One year later, there were a series of research articles published in the History-Geography journal, with special reference on Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa (No. 29, March 1,1975).

Regrettably, from 1975 to 2014, the research work on Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa came to a lull. During this time, particularly after the war in defense of the fatherland in the northern border area in 1979, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam made public a number of documents and books such as: The White Book on Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos (1979); the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos: Vietnam's territories (1982); The Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos and International law (1988). In terms of research, there were some small books and the doctoral dissertation of Nguyễn Nhã themed The process of determining Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos (2002 and 2013, it was published in a book form under the title The evidence of Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos, Education Publisher).

Since May 2014, the research work and claim on the East Sea and Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos have been promoted in all aspects, from collecting materials and conducting on-site surveys and investigations to the scientific researches. The research work does not stop at the history of possession and establishment of the sovereignty of Vietnam and Vietnam's historical and legal evidence, but also studies and criticizes China's wrong arguments. From these results, a lot of research works were made public in the science journals and the media such as the newspapers and television. A number of these were assembled into a collected publication. A number of doctoral and master degree dissertations also selected the subject relating to the East Sea and Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa archipelago. Many theses conducted good research, but there were not many comprehensive and systemic research works. Among these research works, the book Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa - Vietnam's sovereignty: Documents and historical truth by Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Quang Ngọc has caught my special attention.

I remember that in 1992, in a session of the Scientific Council of the History Department under Hanoi National University, we did propose that it was necessary to have a research subject on Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa. On the basis of that proposal, in 1993, the research theme on the History of Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa came into being with Nguyễn Quang Ngọc as the head of the research work. The idea was very good, but in the context at that time, the research work, particularly the collection of materials, met with innumerable difficulties, hence the plan had to be prolonged. Through over 20 years, in that group of authors, some already died, but the man in charge of the subject stayed put and followed it with great patience and dedication and with the high sense of responsibility to overcome every obstacle to complete the work. And I am extremely happy as at the end of the day, the manuscript of the book appeared before me.

The author has followed closely the research work on Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa at home and in the world, taken stock and inherited the results of these research works. But I want to stress here that in terms of materials, the author has not only based his work on the discovered and published materials, but he himself has got access to the materials in original and gone deeper into the survey and investigation in the areas relating to the operation of the Hoàng Sa and Bắc Hải detachments such as the Sa Kỳ estuary, Lý Sơn Island of Quảng Ngãi Province, the root of the Tứ Chính, Cảnh Dương and Phú Quý Island inhabitants on Bình Thuận land. The research method of the author is that he has always combined a lot of different sources of materials, from historical, geographical and archival materials, on-site survey materials and ancient maps in the country with the ancient materials and maps of foreign countries or in other words, this was an interdisciplinary approach. It is this method that has helped the author have the remarks and conclusions with the scientific basis and persuasiveness.

The content of the work is the research on Vietnam's sovereignty in the direction of getting access to history, through the materials proving historical truth on how Vietnam has possessed and practiced its sovereignty over the two archipelagos. The sovereignty over these two archipelagos has also been placed in Vietnam's living space on the East Sea and the through historical background from the prehistory, through the Champa, Phù Nam Kingdoms to the Đại Việt-Vietnam nation. And from here, the position of the "marine boundary" and the "very dangerous" terrain (the Official Document of the Nguyễn dynasty) of the two archipelagos in life and the demand to defend the land of Vietnam can be seen more clearly.

Through the research, the author proposed a number of new surveys and discoveries, in which I highly value two following contents: Firstly, so far, scientists have always based their results on ancient maps and the annotation on the Golden Sand Beach compiled by Đỗ Bá in the 7th year of Chính Hòa Reign (1686) in the Complete Thiên Nam Maps book to determine from that time and before that time, Vietnam had already determined and exercised its sovereignty over the two archipelagos. Prof. Nguyễn Quang Ngọc took one more step, believing that the Hoàng Sa detachment that had been closely associated with the management and implementation of sovereignty over the two archipelagos came into being prior to Tân Mùi Lunar Year - 1631 under the reign of Lord Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên (1613-1635). This discovery was based on the proposal in the 36th year of Cảnh Hưng (1775) by Hà Liễu, the man in charge of Cù Lao Ré ward (Lý Sơn), to reorganize the Hoàng Sa detachment and on a document dated on March 6th, 1636 of Abraham Duijcker who was in charge of a Dutch factory in Hội An, filing a complaint about the fact that the money on the wrecked Grootenbroeck ship was all lost when it was salvaged off the Paracels archipelago. Secondly, the author had made a very careful investigation and research of the origin of the inhabitants, the organization, and role and the contribution of the Hoàng Sa detachment, from the establishment of the detachment through to the time when it was integrated into the Naval force of the Nguyễn dynasty.

Through the history of Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos, the book has provided the solid, scientific evidence, in which there are the historical evidence and the historical- legal evidence, affirming Vietnam's age-old sovereignty over these two archipelagos. The book has also dealt with the disputes and arguments about the sovereignty over the two archipelagos raised by China since 1909 together with China's aggressive acts and plots of occupying the East Sea since 1946.

Among the number of the research works done within Vietnam on Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos, the book Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa - Vietnam's sovereignty: Documents and historical truth by Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Quang Ngọc is a very painstaking and systematic research work. I believe that the book will contribute to improving the people's understanding about the history of Vietnam's sovereignty over the two archipelagos in the middle of the East Sea, providing the scientific evidence affirming Vietnam's sovereignty. In this spirit, I would like to introduce Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa - Vietnam's sovereignty: Documents and historical truth by Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Quang Ngọc to readers and scientists who are doing the research on this subject. I also wish that the book will soon be translated into English so as to contribute a common voice with international scholars with a view to clarifying the truth of Vietnam's age-old sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos.

Hanoi, the summer of 2016
Prof. Phan Huy Lê
President of Vietnam Association of Historical Sciences



I am from the coast. My homeland had an old sage named Trạng Trình who only sat there to watch the rise and fall of the tide to be able to tell stories every now and then. He sent an advice to the offspring generations that whether our country could prosper or decline, could win or lose, all relied on the sea.

When I grew up, I studied history. My teachers, Prof. Phan Huy Lê and Prof. Phan Đại Doãn, taught me the first practical research paper on the all-triumphant historic final showdown of Ngô Quyền outside the Bạch Đằng estuary. When I went to further my study in the Netherlands, I had a chance to get access to a source of materials of the Dutch East India Company in trading with Vietnam through the sea route system. I brought this source of materials back to my homeland to look for the traces of the Domeaborder-gate port, the predecessor of the Port City. That seems to be the road that led me to the theme of Vietnam's sovereignty over islands and sea.

In 1993, I was tasked by Hanoi University to take charge of the subject "History of Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa". I invited Associate Prof. Dr. Trần Bá Chi (Hanoi University), Associate Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Đăng Na (Hanoi Teachers Training University) and expert Phạm Kim Hùng (the Government's Border Committee) to cooperate to exploit the materials in Chinese; Mr. Võ Văn Sạch (the National Center for Archives I) to exploit the official documents; Associate Prof. Nguyễn Thừa Hỷ (Hanoi University) to help exploit the ancient Western materials and Associate Prof. Dr. Vũ Văn Quân (Hanoi University) to together with us conduct the on-site surveys in Quảng Ngãi and Bình Thuận. I also collaborated with a lot of international experts to exploit the foreign materials. Actually, our subject focused mainly on the exploitation of materials. Over the past 20 years, the collection and assembling of materials have yielded the initial results. Many experts have introduced and used them in the struggle for the defense of the sovereignty over islands and sea in different forms. Expert Phạm Kim Hùng, Associate Prof. Dr. Trần Bá Chí, and Associate Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Đăng Na died one by one and they should have been pleased with the contributions of their own and of the group. Associate Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Thừa Hỷ, Associate Prof. Dr. Vũ Văn Quân, and Mr. Võ Văn Sạch have reserved more time for other works. I myself also have to bear some other things outside the subject, but I have to shoulder the responsibility of the unfinished work left by the group.

Entering the 21st Century, a lot of experts have got involved with dedication in the research work on Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa. A lot of domestic and international materials have been exploited and introduced in a methodical way; a lot of doctoral theses and valuable monographs have been published. This is a great and fundamental progress, making a contribution to improving the awareness of and responsibility for the struggle in defense of the Vietnamese nation's sacred sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa. However, if we go deep into these research works, we can see that not a few of them are only the assemble of scientific reports on each professional field; there are scientific reports that incline on a generalization of the principles and methods without digging deep into the studies of the sources of materials. On the contrary, there are a lot of reports that merely introduce the materials, even the very familiar materials, without providing any further new information and particularly they seem not being placed in the context of sovereignty history. Some works did pay attention to the studies of the bibliographies or ancient maps, but confusion is felt while presenting them; there are still inadequacies and not a few mistakes in the least. There seems to be still a shortage of books that on one hand can overview the process of discovering, defining and exercising Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa, and on the other hand can be able to provide specific evidence and new, reliable information.

Encouraged and given favorable conditions by Vietnam National University Press, Hanoi, I took a bold step to accept the task of completing the manuscript of the book entitled "Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa: Documents and historical truth", even though I know it has gone beyond my limited capabilities.

As required, the book should generalize the history of defining and exercising Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa and should prove in a clear way with specific and reliable documents of the process of the history of Vietnam's sovereignty.

We believe that materials are the fundamental stuff of the whole work. All the materials studied and introduced in the book must be the most important materials which will serve as the basis for the study of sketching the process of exploring and occupying the islands and the sea to step by step establish and exercise Vietnam's sovereignty over the East Sea, from the early building of the first ancient states until today. The territorial national sovereignty must be the sovereignty of the state; therefore, in the part of the history of Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa, we have focused highly on the exploitation of materials on the direct operation of the State or advocated by the State. The source of folk materials and other sources of materials at home and abroad are extremely abundant and diverse, but they must be treated and evaluated in the relationship with the advocacy of the State of Vietnam through each period of history.

The materials we have collected, assembled, studied and evaluated comprise:

  • The source of materials in ancient Chinese script, in which there are the official materials of the Vietnamese State such as the official documents of the Nguyễn dynasty, the official sets of history of the royal dynasties, the history-geography books, correspondence and papers, maps, village rules, the compilation of which was organized by the State or under the guidance of the State agencies with special importance. These are the evidence of the historical process of exercising the sovereignty of the Vietnamese State, and in the capacity of the State, they have very high legal value. On the other hand, we have still paid attention to exploiting the notes of scholars, villages, and clans when these notes have been assembled in the libraries or the archives so that we can be able to add and make it clearer the process of exercising the sovereignty of the Vietnamese State.
  • The source of materials from on-site surveys that include the mixture of bibliographies, relics, folklore legends, folk verses, doggerels, customs, religions and so on. This source of materials is very abundant. However, if we know how "to separate the wheat from the chaff", to put it in the overall relationship to make comparison, contrast, and judgment so as to find the core of it, then this source of materials will become reliable, reflecting in a lively way the implementation of the policies of the localities. The legal value of this source of materials is that it affirms the process of exercising Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa, which did not stop at the major decisions of the state but turned into the activities in the conscious implementation of the ordinary people.
  • The source of Chinese materials reflecting the concept and real state of the border issue on the East Sea in the historical periods comprises of maps, official history and geography books of the Chinese State as well as of collective and private units. The value of this source of materials is that it determines that China's traditional territories do not go beyond Hainan Island and the offshore marine and island region in the south of Hainan Island belongs to "Man Di", or "abroad" (according to the official concept of China) meaning that it does not belong to China. There are also materials that show clearly that this region belongs to Vietnam or have a direct relationship with Vietnam.
  • The source of materials of Western bibliographies, including mainly the materials of the East India Company of Britain, France and Holland, the materials of the Portuguese, and the materials of the French Missionaries' Association. This source of materials is rather scattered, but is possible to provide objective and relatively accurate information. However, to exploit this source of materials in a methodical way requires time and multi-faceted investment.

The materials on Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa from the 17th - 18th centuries' period still found to the present day are not really many in number, are yet to be thoroughly exploited and even the materials that have been exploited are scattered and not easy to get access to. That is why we are not sure by whom and when all these materials can be exploited thoroughly.

Domestically, we try to exploit the sources of materials from the archives of the central agencies such as the National Border Committee, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Command of the Border Guards, the Navy Command, the National Archives Center I- III, the Hán Nôm Research Institute, the History Institute, the Social Science Information Institute, Hanoi National University, the libraries at central, provincial and municipal levels, the specialized agencies, the private collections of scientists as well as the materials being kept in many relevant agencies. Through international relations and cooperation, we have collected the information about warehouses of books in Russia, France, Japan, Taiwan, Belgium, Holland, Britain, Germany, Australia, the USA, Indonesia and so on, and during our business trips to these countries, we were able to get access to them. The set of our materials still needs revisions and additions, but they have given US the most fundamental and necessary information so that we can be able to get down to do the research on the history of Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa.

The sources of materials of Vietnam (from the center to the localities, of the state and among the people) together with the bibliographies and ancient maps of China, the west and the relevant countries all have unanimously certified the step-by-step process of Vietnam's awareness and reclaim and occupation of the East Sea, especially in many consecutive centuries, particularly from the early 17th Century to the early 20th Century, the monarchy states of Vietnam established and implemented its sovereignty in a true sense of the word over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa. That is why, in the process of research, we have focused more on the sources of materials during this period of time. The materials from the 17th Century have been exploited as the premises, the foundation for the process of confirming the sovereignty- while the materials since 1909 have been presented as the evidence for the process of the struggle to defend the sovereignty.

The book is divided into 5 chapters, in which Chapter I: The East Sea and the two Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos on the East Sea" and Chapter II: The East Sea in the National Construction and Defense of the Vietnamese nation to the 16th Century" have been presented as the premises, the natural, historical, social and cultural basis for the whole process of certifying and implementing Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa. Chapter III: "Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa in the period of the Nguyễn Lord and the Tây Sơn dynasty in the 17th-!.8th Centuries" and Chapter IV: "Vietnam's sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa during the Nguyen dynasty in the 19th Century" is the main content of the book. Through these two chapters, we want to highlight the historical truth that from the early 17th Century to the early 20th Century, the monarchy states of Vietnam occupied in a true sense of the word and exercised their sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos in a full and complete manner in peace without having any protest or dispute of whatsoever country. This is the form of establishing the sovereignty of the state on terra nullius; it has nothing to do with the sovereignty of other country, with a view to expanding the national territories, and it conforms completely to the principles of acquisition of territory of international law.

Chapter V: "Dispute, the argument on the sovereignty and the real state of occupation of the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos since 1909" is a vast topic, worthy being covered by many chapters or being presented in an exclusive book. However, having put it in the logic of this book, we would like to introduce it in summary and highlight a historical truth that even though in the extremely difficult and complicated situation, even when the country had lost its independence the sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa and the Trường Sa archipelagos was still maintained and protected at all costs by different generations of Vietnamese.

Looking at the whole issue in an objective, honest and responsible manner, judging correctly the history of reclaiming, establishing and implementing the sovereignty before the time of the dispute and the struggle to defend the sovereignty since the dispute happened will be the most important historical and legal basis to aim towards settling the dispute of sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa in accordance with the fundamental principles of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as well as making a contribution to building the legally binding Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC)[1].

Finally, the book has come to the hands of readers. Even though the preparation is a long process and the author has made biggest efforts, the "spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" and it is certain that our book cannot but avoid having some limitations and inadequacies. We sincerely expect the contributions, including the sympathy, sharing, and tolerance of readers.

We would like to express our profound gratitude to the leaders and the members of the Islands-Sea 01 Research Subject under the East Sea- Islands Program in the 1993-1995 stage, and the scientists, collaborators, organizations and individuals at home and abroad for providing information and permitting the exploitation and use of materials and showing us the shortages and weaknesses in our research. We do believe that we have been advancing ever closer to the process of awareness of the history of the sovereignty in a full, objective, true and complete manner as it has happened in history. Correct awareness of the history of the sovereignty will serve as the basis to have the correct solution and the correct action, as Uncle Hồ has taught us: Our sea is mastered by our people", for an East Sea of peace and prosperity, for a Vietnam being powerful in the sea and making wealth from the sea.



Chapter I



The East Sea is a semi-enclosed sea and encircled by the Indochinese Peninsula (the mainland part of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand) in the West, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei in the South, the Philippines in the East and Taiwan Island and the southernmost territory of China in the North. The East Sea is internationally called with the name the South China Sea (Nan Hai)[2].

This is one of the six big seas in the world and the second to only the Coral Sea in the Northeast of Australia, with the area of 3.5 million square kilometers. The East Sea stretches from 3° to 26°N and from 100° to 121°E. The length of the East Sea is over 3,000km; its width is 1,000km, 8 times bigger than the Black Sea and 1.5 times bigger than the Mediterranean Sea. The average depth of the East Sea is about 1,140m and the water volume is about 3,928.10 million km3.

The East Sea contains important marine natural resources for the life and economic development of the countries around, especially the resources of creatures, minerals, and tourism. This is also a region being under pressure of marine eco-environmental protection.

The East Sea is one of the five biggest oil and gas basins in the world. As estimated by the US Department of Energy, the oil reserve verified in the East Sea is 7 billion barrels with the production capacity of 2.5 million barrels a day. As estimated by China, the oil and gas reserve in the East Sea is about 213 billion barrels. Apart from oil and gas, the East Sea region also has a big reserve of methane clathrates (also called Fire Ice) equivalent to that of oil and gas. This is the source of energy of special importance that could substitute oil and gas in the future.

The East Sea is the "bridge" connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, Europe and the Middle East to Asia through the lifeblood international maritime route. On the other hand, within the East Sea, there are 5 regional maritime routes and many national maritime routes. This is the region having the second busiest maritime routes in the world, only after the Mediterranean. In the Southeast Asian region, there are 536 seaports, facilitating the economic exchange between Vietnam and the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific region - a region being considered having the most dynamic economic development in the world in the 21st Century - the century of the ocean.

The East Sea region has the important straits which serve as the main gates such as the Malacca Strait in the Southwest, the Taiwan Strait and the Luzon Strait in the Northeast. The East Sea is extremely important to all the countries inside and outside the region in geo- strategy, marine security, maritime route transport and marine economy.

Many countries and territories in the East Asian region have their economies depend vitally on this maritime route such as China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, and others. Each day, there are around 150 to 200 assorted ships cruising through the East Sea, of which about 50% with 5,000 tons and more, over 10% with 30,000 tons and more. According to Chinese authors, the number of ships passing the Malacca Strait annually is 18,000, transporting 25% of the export- import goods, 50% of the oil, 66% of the gas of the world; and 60% of these ships come to China. China has been depending ever more on transporting energy through the Malacca Strait. Japan considers the transport route through the Malacca Strait the "vital maritime route" because 90% of crude oil and a great quantity of other raw materials it imports from Africa and the Middle East are transported on this route. According to foreign scholars' analysis, currently, the dependence of the economy of China, Japan, and South Korea on the maritime routes on the East Sea is about 90% (85.7%; 90.6% and 87.3% respectively).

The commodity and market relationship between the USA and China and the Southeast Asian countries has increased considerably with over one million tons of commodities exchanged through the East Sea. The US, import fisheries, natural gas, rubber from the Southeast Asian countries and the Southeast Asian countries import machines and equipment. With the US domestic market demand of China and the Asia-Pacific countries' goods as well as the huge quantity of total trading goods between the US and China, the relationship between the US economy with the marine transport route in the East Sea, the maritime freedom and security in this region cannot be ignored in the US strategy.[3] If there is any conflict happening, all the ships and boats will not go through the East Sea; they have to take a roundabout route through Indonesia and the Pacific that will cost a lot of money and time. Prolonged conflicts could cause congestion of important maritime transport of Japan, South Korea, and China, thus creating a fever on the stock market and causing a chaos in production and consumption and as a result, it will push the economy into recession.

This is the only sea in the world in which there are two biggest archipelagic countries in the world, namely Indonesia and the Philippines; there are two big archipelagos Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa locating in the middle of the sea and two bays that go deep into the land being the Tonkin Gulf and the Gulf of Thailand.

The East Sea not only lies on the interchange axis between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean but also between Asia and Oceania, is located right on the axis and the belts of economic cooperation of Northeast Asia, Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia; so it plays an important role in the trend of international integration and globalization. The one-axis, two-wing strategy of China can be understood as taking the East Sea as the axis and the Pacific and the Indian Ocean as two wings, in which the Taiwan Strait in the Northeast and the Malacca Strait in the Southwest, guarding the entrance and exit in the South and the North, have the political and military strategic value. The East Sea links China's southern market with the ASEAN, which has the ever more important strategic role in the economic cooperation of the 21st Century.[4]

This is the sea of the continental margin, but it has the characteristics of an ocean. The East Sea gets the inflow of water from the big river systems like the Zhiujiang (China), the Hồng and Cửu Long rivers system (Vietnam), the Chaophaya River (Thailand) and so on. At the same time, it links with the oceans and the neighboring seas by the straits and has direct exchange with the Pacific.

From the perspective of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the East Sea is a typical region, bearing all the relevant contents of this Convention like coastal states, archipelagic states, land-locked states, geographically disadvantageous states, sea areas under national jurisdiction, historical waters, fishing areas, sea delimitation of the sea, enclosed and semi-enclosed sea, international straits, cooperation in management of living resources, migratory fish schools and trans­border fish schools, common exploitation, marine environmental protection, marine scientific research, anti-piracy, navigation safety, search and rescue and so on. The emergence of the concepts of the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone has made almost all the East Sea enveloped with the waters under the sovereignty and the national jurisdiction of the coastal states of the East Sea. The result is that many countries which in the past were separate have now become the countries sharing the common maritime boundaries and the East Sea has become the sea that contains many disputes, in which the dispute over the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos is the most complicated and with a lot of countries being involved in. The disputes in the East Sea have not only influenced the relationship among the countries concerned but also influenced the interests of other countries, affecting peace, stability, cooperation, and development of the region and the world.[5]


2.1. Geographical position and natural features of the Vietnamese sea

The land territory of Vietnam abuts the East Sea in the East, the South, and the Southwest. The sea areas and the continental shelf of Vietnam are part of the East Sea, stretching along the coastal length of 3,260km from Quảng Ninh Province to Kiên Giang Province. In every 100 km2 of the land territory, Vietnam has 1km of coast and nowhere in the mainland of Vietnam is 500km away from the coast; so any locality within Vietnam's territories can be impacted by "the marine element" and "the marine element" can make an impact on every part of the country. Right from the old days, the ancestors of the Vietnamese already thought that the sea is half of their living space: "Three parts are mountains, four parts are the sea and one part is the field" . Even though it is a peninsular state, Vietnam in the age-old traditional concept and in the practical life has always been a coastal state lying on the shore to the west of the East Sea. The East Sea was at first the folk name and then it has become the official name of the state of Vietnam all through its historical process. The name East Sea at first aimed at the sea and island areas in the East of the country and later on it has expanded to have the common name for all the living spaces, the traditional fishing grounds, the territorial sea and the continental shelf where Vietnam has its sovereignty and sovereign rights.

Vietnam has got the internal waters, the territorial sea, the contiguous zone of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and the vast continental shelf as prescribed in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; it has two Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos lying in the middle of the East Sea with thousands of islands, big and small, near and away from the coast, all have formed the defense line to protect, control and master the sea areas and the continental shelf.

Based on the Declaration of the Vietnamese Government on the waters (in 1977), on the baseline to calculate the width of the territorial sea (in 1982), the sea of Vietnam comprises the waters within the 200 nautical miles and two Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos in the middle of the East Sea, occupying about 29% of the area of the East Sea.

Inside the East Sea, relating to Vietnam, there are two big gulfs: the Tonkin Gulf, 130,000 km2 and the Gulf of Thailand, 293,000 km2. This is the only sea connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The sea of Vietnam is strongly influenced by the prevalent monsoon regime in the Northeast and the Southeast direction. That is why Vietnam has endured a lot of risks caused by natural disasters and the marine environmental incidents on the East Sea, especially from the originless oil spills and oil wastes brought into Vietnam's coast to the West.


Photo 1: The map of Vietnam and the East Sea

The climate regime of Vietnam's waters varies in three main climatic areas: the Northern climatic area (from Hải Vân Pass to the North) has the monsoon tropical climate with cold winter, the Southern climate (from Đà Nang to the Cửu Long River Delate provinces) has the near-equatorial tropical monsoon climate with two clear rainy and dry seasons and the temperature is always high, and the East Sea climatic area with the marine tropical monsoon climate. The East Sea in general and the sea area of Vietnam, in particular, is the region being hard hit with a lot of natural disasters, storms, climate change and is in danger of being hit by tsunami. On average there are about 8 storms landing on the sea areas and islands of Vietnam every year and it is estimated that tsunami could come from the deep gorges along the Western coast of the Philippines (Palawan) and could approach the coast of Nha Trang only after two hours.

The coastal sea regime also has a clear modification. The surface flow and wave regime changes according to the year's monsoon, both in the flow direction and in intensity. The above-said climate and sea characteristics contribute to forming the different geographical and ecological areas, bringing along the differences in the strength of the living resources and the potential of development.

The coast of Vietnam is winding with a lot of straits, bays, and gulfs, and every 20km along the length of the coastline there is an estuary. So, the total number of estuaries flowing into the sea is 114, mainly from the mainland Vietnam. Especially, Vietnam has two large and fertile deltas along the coast, the Red River delta in the North and the Cửu Long River Delta in the South. The largest amount of water and alluvium flowing into the East Sea annually is from the river system of these two deltas.

Administratively, currently, Vietnam has 63 provinces and cities under the central government, of which 28 have got the sea[6], with 125 coastal districts and 12 island districts[7]. These are the administrative units which play an important role in the economic development and protection of security and sovereignty over the sea and islands of the Fatherland. The sea and islands of Vietnam comprise a lot of different areas, but the highlights and characteristics to note are the Tonkin Gulf, the Thailand Gulf, the two Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos and some other islands and archipelagos.

- The Tonkin Gulf

The Tonkin Gulf lies in the Northwest of the East Sea; it is surrounded by the coast and islands of the North of Vietnam in the West, a very small part of mainland China in the North, and the Leizhou Peninsula and the Hainan island of China in the East. The Tonkin Gulf spreads from 105°36' longitude East to about 109°55' longitude East; from 21°55' latitude North to 17°10' latitude North. The largest area of the width is about 310km and the narrowest area is about 202km. The acreage is 126,250km2.

The Tonkin Gulf is relatively shallow with its average depth being from 40m to 50m and the deepest place is about 100m; the seabed is relatively smooth with a small slope. The continental shelf belonging to the naturally stretching part of the mainland Vietnam to the sea is relatively large; the slope is gradual with the trough being 70m deep near Hainan Island of China. The coast is meandering and there are a lot of islands near the shore. The part of the Gulf on the part of Vietnam has thousands of islands, big and small, including Bạch Long Vĩ Island, which is 2.5 km2 large and 110km away from mainland Vietnam, 130km away from Hainan Island of China. The Tonkin Gulf has a lot of fisheries resources (fish reserve of Vietnam is about 44,000 tons) and oil and gas potential.

The Tonkin Gulf has two exit gates: the South gate to the center of the East Sea, where the narrowest part is about 240km, and the East gate via Qiongzhou Strait (between Leizhou Peninsula and Hainan Island) to the North of the East Sea, the narrowest part is 18km.

  • The Gulf of Thailand

The Gulf of Thailand lies in the Southwest of the East Sea. It is surrounded by the sea coasts of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia.

The Gulf of Thailand's acreage is about 293,000 km2; its circumference is about 2,300 km and its length is about 628 km. This is a shallow gulf with the deepest area being only 80m. Phú Quốc Island is the biggest island of Vietnam with acreage being 567km2.

The Gulf of Thailand has a lot of fisheries resources (Vietnam's fish reserves are about 51,000 tons. The Gulf also has big oil and gas potential being which is explored and exploited by the relevant countries.

- Islands and archipelagos

The islands and archipelagos are situated in two areas which are closely associated with each other all through the process of the country's history. The coastal water area comprises 2,773 islands, big and small, mainly in the Tonkin Gulf and the rest distributed in the waters in the Northern part, the central part and the Southern part of Central Vietnam and the Southwest. In the middle and Southern parts of the East Sea, there are the two Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos occupying the especially vulnerable and important positions with the upfront part guarding and shielding the country inside.

Basing on the strategic position and the geographical, economic and inhabitant conditions, it is possible to divide the islands and archipelagos into groups (Each island, archipelago can be in many different groups):

- The first group: The outpost island system plays an important position in the construction and defense of the Fatherland. On the islands, it is possible to set up the bases to control the waters and airspace of the country, control the activities of boats and ships to guarantee the national defense and security, to build the economy and to defend the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. These are such islands and archipelagos as Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa, Chàng Tây, Thổ Chu, Phú Quốc, Côn Đảo, Phú Quý, Lý Sơn, Cồn Cỏ, Cô Tô, Bạch Long Vĩ and others.

- The second group: The large islands with favorable natural conditions for social and economic development. They are Cát Bà, Cù Lao Chàm, Lý Sơn, Phú Quý, Côn Đảo, Phú Quốc and others.

- The third group: The coastal islands near the mainland have got conditions for fishing and tourism development and are also the bases to maintain order and security on the waters and the shores of our country. They are the islands of Cát Bà island district, Bạch Long Vĩ island district (Hải Phòng, Phú Quý island district (Bình Thuận), Côn Đảo island district (Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), Lý Sơn island district (Quảng Ngãi), Phú Quốc island district (Kiên Giang) and others.

2.2. Natural resources

Vietnam's waters in the East Sea contain a lot of important resources as follows:

- Biological resources

The East Sea has abundant and diverse biological resources with over 160,000 species, in which there are 10,000 floras and 260 sea bird species. The reserve of sea animals is estimated at about 32.5 billion tons, in which fish of all kinds account for 86% of the total reserve.

Vietnam's waters have over 2,458 kinds of fish with different orders and families, in which there are 110 kinds of fish of high economic value. The reserve of fish in Vietnam's waters is about 5 million tons per year and the reserve of fish that can be caught annually is about 2.3 million tons. There are over 1,800 kinds of mollusks in the East Sea, many of which are favorite foods like cuttle fish, sea slug and so on.

The sea birds in the East Sea are found very abundant such as sea gulls, pelicans, sandpipers, salangane and others.

Apart from sea animals, the sea also provides 638 kinds of sea weeds of great value. This is the source of food with high nutrition and of precious pharmaceutical materials.

- The non-biological resources

Oil and gas is the biggest resources on the continental shelf of Vietnam and has the strategic importance. Up to now, we have determined the total oil and gas potential in the sedimentary basin: The Hồng river, Phú Khánh, Nam Côn Sơn, Cửu Long, Malay - Thổ Chu, Tư Chính and Vũng Mây. The predicted oil and gas reserve of the whole continental shelf of Vietnam is about 10 billion tons oil equivalent. Apart from oil, Vietnam has got gas with the exploitable reserve of about 3,000 billion cubic meters of gas. The verified reserve is about 550 million tons of oil and over 610 billion cubic meters of gas. The evaluated gas reserve, which is being exploited and ready to develop in the coming time, is about 400 billion cubic meters. According to experts, the East Sea area also contains a very large resource of methane clathrate, a very special and important resource that could substitute oil in the future.

On the other hand, Vietnam's waters lie within the West part of the tin mine belt in the Pacific Ocean with a very big tin reserve and the great potential of placer ore of the rare elements.

- The transport resources

Vietnam's territories with the coast line running along the North- South direction, locating adjacent to the important international routes of the world, with wind-tight bays, have the favorable conditions for developing maritime transport and expanding exchange with the outside world.

The East Sea is considered the strategic route in terms of international exchange and trade between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean with four sides having the passages to the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean through the straits. From Vietnam's sea ports, it is possible to go through the Malacca Strait to the Indian Ocean, China, Europe and Africa; through the Basi Strait to go into the Pacific Ocean to the ports of Japan, Russia, South America and North America; through the straits between the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore to Australia and New Zealand. Most Asia-Pacific countries have got frequent and strong maritime trade on the East Sea. Out of the 10 biggest sea routes in the world now, 5 routes go through the East Sea and are related to the East Sea.

Many estuary areas, bays and gulfs along Vietnam's coast can be built into deep-water ports favorable for big ships to come for goods handling like Cái Lân Port and Hạ Long and Bái Tử Long bays, Lạch Huyện, Đình Vũ, Cát Hải, Nghi Sơn, Hòn La, Vũng Áng, Chơn Mây, Đà Nẵng, Dung Quất, Văn Phong, Cam Ranh, Cát Lái, Cái Mép, Vũng Tàu, Thị Vải and so on.

- The tourism resources

The long coast line with a lot of sand beaches, beautiful natural bays and caves, warm tropical climate all year round in the South hold the great potential for tourism of Vietnam. Due to the regional tectonic characteristics, the limestone mountains reaching out closely to the sea shores have created diverse natural landscapes with many bays, gulfs, white sand beaches, caves, peninsulas and islands, big and small, all have linked together into a very unique tourism population. Ha Long Bay, the World Natural Heritage, comprises 82 islands on an area of over 1,000 km2, of which 24 islands have an area of over 10km2 (from 10km2 to 320km2). Not far from the coast are the attractive island eco systems with pure air, transparent and clean sea and white, smooth sand beaches.

Together with Hạ Long Bay, many other relics and landscapes in the mainland of the coastal and central provinces of Vietnam such as Tràng An (Ninh Bình), Phong Nha Kẻ Bàng (Quảng Bình), ancient capital city Huế (Thừa Thiên-Huê), the ancient Hội An Town, the Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary (Quảng Nam) are also honored by the UNESCO as the Natural Heritage, the Cultural Heritage and the Natural-Cultural Heritage of humanity.

The trade and economic centers and the tourism cities are located along the coast or not far from the coast like Hạ Long, Hải Phòng, Sầm Sơn, Thanh Hóa, Vinh, Đồng Hới, Huế, Đà Nẵng, Hội An, Quy Nhơn, Tuy Hòa, Nha Trang, Vũng Tàu, Cà Mau, Kiên Giang, and Hà Tiên. The trans-Vietnam road, railway and high-quality international transportation system have been built along the coast[8].


3.1. Geographical position and natural features

Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos are the combination of a lot of small banks, shoal reefs, cays, half-submerged shallow lagoons, etc. lying in the tropical climatic region usually being the place for the landfall of big storms. Due to the coral structure plus the severe climate there is fresh water scarcity on these islands with almost no cultivable land; the vegetation on these islands is very poor with a small number of single plants, not really adaptable for permanent human settlement. In terms of natural resources, the waters in the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelago region have got a great potential of fisheries, oil and gas. Especially these two archipelagos are also the passageway of the sea route from the East to the West on the East Sea.

3.1.1. Hoàng Sa archipelago

The Hoàng Sa archipelago is the district-level administrative unit under Đà Nang City, within about 15°45' latitude North to 17°15' North, from 111° longitude East to 113° East in the region North of the East Sea, in the same level as the coastal region of Quảng Trị, Thừa Thiên-Huế provinces, Đà Nang City, Quảng Nam province and part of Quảng Ngãi province. The westernmost point of the Hoàng Sa archipelago (i.e. Tri Tôn island) is 123 nautical miles (228km) from Lý Sơn island.

Hoàng Sa is the official, age-old and flesh-and-blood archipelagic placename of Vietnam. It has the direct, root relationship with the folk placenames such as Bãi Cát Vàng, Cát Vàng and Cồn Vàng. The Hoàng Sa archipelago is also recognized in the Western bibliographies and maps as a very important and dangerous location on the East Sea, which cannot be but known to the passing boats and ships with the name Paracels (or Pracel, Parcels, Paracelso,...). Since 1909 China started to name the archipelago officially as Xisha archipelago.

The Hoàng Sa archipelago consists of 37 islands, rocks and shoals. It is divided into two groups: The Eastern group has the name of An Vĩnh group, comprising about 12 islands, rocks and shoals, including two big islands being Phú Lâm and Linh Côn islands; the Western group comprises a lot of islands being arranged in a bow shape or also called the Crescent group, including Hoàng Sa, Quang Anh, Hữu Nhật, Quang Hòa, Duy Mộng, Chim Yến and Tri Tôn.

Hoàng Sa archipelago has a world of corals with over 100 coral species that has formed part of the submerged coral reef in the East Sea. The topographic form of the islands within Hoàng Sa archipelago is rather simple, but richly imbued with the identity of the coral reefs topography in the tropical region. Most of the islands have got the height of below 10 meters and the land area of only 1km2. The total land area of the surface ground of all the islands belonging to Hoàng Sa archipelago is about 10 km2. Apart from the islands, there are also the cays, the coral ring surrounding a water area, creating a lagoon amid the high sea, with the sand dune stretching for 30km and 10km wide, like Cát Vàng sand dune.

Air temperature in the sea area of Hoàng Sa archipelago has the lowest value of 22°C - 24°C in January, then increases to maximal degree of 28.5°C - 29°C in June and July and decreases gradually to 25°C in December. The monsoon regimes of the Hoàng Sa archipelago area are very complicated and reflect the influence of the continental terrain of Vietnam and China. The annual rainfall averages from 1,200mm to 1,600mm, much lower than that in Trường Sa archipelago and other mainland areas. The rain mainly falls from May to October with the monthly rainfall averaging from 100mm to 200mm, particularly from 200mm to 400mm in October. Average humidity in Hoàng Sa is 80% to 85% and it almost does not have any big seasonal fluctuations.

The vegetation of Hoàng Sa archipelago is very diverse. There are some islands where trees are luxuriant, but there are some other islands where only small trees and wild grass are found. Flora is largely from the species having the roots in the coastal areas of Vietnam.

Seafood in Hoàng Sa archipelago includes a lot of precious species such as lobsters, sea slugs, sea turtles, cochlea elephants, etc. and rare, precious seaweeds of great value in the international market.

Hoàng Sa archipelago comprises two main groups: the Lưỡi Liềm (Crescent) group in the West and the An Vĩnh group in the East.

- The Lưỡi Liềm island group (also called Nguyệt Thiềm, Trăng Khuyết, or the West group; the English name is the Crescent Group; the French name is Croisant Groupe)[9]. This island group has bow or crescent shape, lying in the West of the archipelago, very close to mainland Vietnam. It comprises 8 main islands: Đá Bắc, Hoàng Sa, Hữu Nhật, Duy Mộng, Quang Ánh, Quang Hòa, Bạch Quy and Trí Tôn islands and the reefs and rocks.

- Đá Bắc island has the geographical coordinates of 17°06 N and 111°30.8 E.

- Hoàng Sa Island (the English name is Pattle Island; the French name is Ile Pattle)[10] lies at 16°32 N and 111°36.7 E, having an oval form, a height of 9m, land area of 0.5km2, a length of 950m, a width of 650m and a surrounding coral ring. Not a big island as it is, Hoàng Sa is the main island of the archipelago with the most important military position for the protection of Vietnam's coast.

- Hữu Nhật Island, (the English name is Robert Island; the French name is lie Robert)[11], lies in the South, 3 nautical miles away from Hoàng Sa Island, at coordinates 16°30,3 N and 111°35.3 E; it has a round shape with diameter of 800 m, a height of 8m and land area of 0.6km2, having a coral ring outside and a tranquil sea in the middle.

- Duy Mộng Island, (the English name is Drummond Island; the French name is lie Drummond)[12], lies in the Southeast of Hữu Nhật Island and in the Northeast of Quang Hòa Island at coordinates 16°28' N and 111°44' E, formed by corals; the coral beach lies far away from the island, 4m visible from the water surface, in an oval form with land area of 0.41km2.

- Quang Hòa Island, (the English name is Duncan Island; the French name is lie Duncan)[13], lies at coordinates 16°27' N and 111°42' E, formed by corals. It is a big island of the Crescent islands group with land area of 0.5km2; there are a lot of trees on the island surrounded by a yellowish coral beach, rising far away from the island; it connects with some other small islands to make East Quang Hòa Island and West Quang Hòa Island.

- Quang Ảnh Island, (the English name is Money Island; the French name is He Money)[14], lies at coordinates 16°50' N and 112°20' E, formed by corals; it has a height of 6m. Around the island is a shore strewn with lots of dangerous sharp-pointed submerged rocks, making it difficult for big ships to anchor near the island; they should anchor off shore and use small boats to get to the island. The island has an oval shape with land area of 0.3km2.


- Bạch Quy Island, (also called Đá Rùa Trắng Island; the English name is Passu Keah Island; the French name is lie Passoo Keah)[15], lies at coordinates 16°03' N and 111°47' E, with a height of 15 m; this is the highest island in Hoàng Sa archipelago.

- Tri Tôn Island, (the English name is Triton Island; the French name is He Triton)[16], lies at coordinates 15°47' N and 111°12' E; it is nearest to Vietnam's coast; it has sea cucumber and tortoises. Corals in this area develops vigorously and is diverse. The Crescent island group has some islets, ledges and beaches such as Ốc Hoa, Ba Ba and Lưỡi Liềm islands; Hải Sâm, Lồi and Chim Én rocks; Xà Cừ, Ngự Bình beaches and Óc Tai Voi underground beach.

- The An Vinh island group (also called the Bắc group; the English name is Amphitrite Group; the French name is Amphytrite Groupe)[17] lies in the East, comprising the relatively big islands of Hoàng Sa archipelago and also the biggest coral islands in the East Sea such as Phú Lâm, Cây, Linh Côn, Trung, Bắc, Nam, Tây and Hòn Đá islands.

- Phú Lâm Island (the English name is Woody Island; the French name is lie Boisée)[18] lies at coordinates 16°50' N and 112°20' E; this is the most important island of the An Vĩnh island group and Hoàng Sa archipelago. The island has the length of 1.7 km, the width of 1.2 km and the area of 1.3 km2.

- Linh Côn Island (the English name is Lincoln Island; the French name is lie Lincoln)[19] lies at coordinates 16°40' N and 112°44' E. Linh Côn island is the biggest island in Hoàng Sa archipelago with an area of 1.62km2, the height of 4.5m; the coral ring surrounding it runs as far as 15 nautical miles to the South.

- Trung Island (also called Giữa Island; the English name is Middle Island; the French name is lie du Millieu)[20] lies at coordinates 16°57' N and 112°19' E.

- Bắc Island (the English name is North Island; the French name is Ile du Nord)[21] lies at coordinates 16°58' N and 112°18' E.

- Nam Island (the English name is South Island; the French name is Ile du Sud)[22] lies at coordinates 16°57' N and 112°19' E.

- Hòn Đá Island (the English name is Rocky Island; the French Name is Ile Rocheuse)[23] lies at coordinates 16°51' N and 112°21' E with an area of 0.4km2.

Besides, the An Vĩnh island group has a lot of ledges, sand dunes and beaches such as Trương Nghĩa Reef (coordinates 16°58.6 N, 112°21' E); Sơn Kỳ Reef (coordinates 16°34.6 N, 111°41.0 E), Trà Tây Reef (coordinates 16°32.8 N, 111°42.8 E) Bông Bay Reef (coordinates 16°02.0 N, 112°30.0 E, Bình Sơn Beach (coordinates 16°46.6 No, 112°13.2 E), Đèn Pha Beach (coordinatesl6°32.0 N, 111°36.9 E), Châu Nhai Beach (coordinates 16°19.3 N, 112°25.4 E), Cát Tây sand dune (coordinates 16°58.9 N, 112°12.3 E), Cát Nam sand dune (coordinates 16°55.6, 112°20.5 E), Hòn Tháp (coordinates 16°34.8 N, 112°38.6 E), Gò Nổi Beach (coordinates 16°49.7 N, 112°53.4 E), Thủy Tề Beach (coordinates 16°32.0 N, 112°39.9 E), Quang Nghĩa Beach (coordinates 16°19.4 N, 112°41.1 E)

3.1.2. Trường Sa archipelago

Trường Sa Archipelago is the district-level administrative unit under Khánh Hòa Province. It lies from latitude 6°30' N to 12°00' N and from longitude 111°30' E to 117°20' E, 200 nautical miles away from Hoàng Sa archipelago to the South, surrounded by hundreds of islands rocks, half-submerged beaches (of which only 148 islands, rocks have been named so far)[24].

The islands of Trường Sa archipelago are lower than those of Hoàng Sa archipelago. The average height above water surface is about 3 to 5 m. The total area of the raised part of all islands, rocks, sand dunes and beaches in Trường Sa archipelago is about 3 km2, as much as three tenths of the total area of Hoàng Sa archipelago (10km2, but it spreads over the waters 10 times larger than Hoàng Sa archipelago).

On these islands there are a lot of trees such as Phong Ba plants (scientific name is Heliotropium foertheranium), Phi Lao trees (sea pine trees — scientific name: casuarina equisetifolia), Bàng Vuông trees (terminalia trees with square fruit — scientific name: Barringtonia asiatica) and a number of climbing plants and wild grass. Soil on the islands of Trường Sa archipelago is coral sand mixed with layers of guano and humus, 5cm to 10cm thick. Groundwater is found on Song Tử Tây, Song Tử Đông Trường Sa islands. Sea food resources on Trường Sa archipelago are great, especially various kinds of vích (sea turtles - scientific name: lepidochelys olivacea), which are the rare and precious animals, and tuna which is of highly economic value. Trường Sa archipelago has not only a relatively great and diverse reserve of natural resources, but also an important strategic military position that stands in the way to the Southeast of Vietnam. Natural conditions and climate in this area are very harsh: frequent sunshine and wind, frequent storms, shortage of fresh water and many islands are treeless. On Trường Sa archipelago, some climatic phenomena develop differently from the mainland.

Climate on Trường Sa archipelago can be divided into two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season lasts from January to May; the rainy season, from May to January next year with the rainfall being very big, about 2,500mm. Thunderstorms in the waters of this archipelago are very common, even all year round; in other words, thunderstorms happen every month. Storms also pass this region, mostly in the months of the rainy season.

Trường Sa archipelago is divided into 8 groups: Song Tử, Thị Tứ, Loại Ta, Nam Yết, Sinh Tồn, Trường Sa, Thám Hiểm and Bình Nguyên, in which the Nam Yết group is the largest with a lot of rocky islands and submerged beaches connected sequentially into a ring surrounding the shallow waters of about 10 meters. Song Tử Tây is the highest island (about 4m to 6m when there is the ebb tide); Ba Bình is the largest island (about 0.6km2). In addition, there are many small islands and submerged stone beaches such as Sinh Tồn Đông, Chữ Thập, Châu Viên, Ga Ven, Ken Nan, Đá Lớn, Thuyền Chài, etc.

- The Song Tử island group lies in the Northernmost part of Trường Sa archipelago, parallel in latitude with Phan Rang (Ninh Thuận province).

Song Tử Đông Island (the English name is North East Cay) lies at coordinates 11°27.4 N, 114°21.3 E) is being occupied by the Philippines. The Island has a relatively round form with an area of 0.127km2, a length of 900m, a width of 250m and a height of 3m. It has a lot of sandy beaches and coral reefs around and a lot of trees.

Song Tử Tây Island (the English name is South West Cay) lies at coordinates 11°25.9 N, 114°19.8 E, 1.5 nautical miles from Song Tử Đông island to the South. Song Tử Tây Island has an oval shape lying in the direction of Northeast-Southwest; it has a length of about 630m, a width of 275m, an area of the raised part and coral shelf of about 0.22km2. There is much brackish water on the island that can be used for living; there are a lot of green trees, like a miniature forest amid the vast ocean. Song Tử Tây island is an administrative unit at communal level, under Trường Sa island district, Khánh Hòa Province.

On Song Tử Đông and Song Tử Tây islands, there is much guano that can be turned into fertilizer. This island group is called the Song Tử island group because of the most typical character of these two islands. Five nautical miles around these two islands to the East and the South and also within this island group, there are a lot of ledges, shoals and submerged beaches such as Đá Nam beach (South Reef, coordinates 11°23.3 N, 114°17.9 E); Đá Bắc beach (North Reef, coordinates 11°28.0 N, 114°23.6 E); Đinh Ba shoal (Trident Shoal, coordinates 11°30.1 N, 114°38.8 E); Núi Cầu Shoal (Lý Shoal, coordinates 11°21.0 N, 114°33.7 E).

- The Thị Tứ island group lies in the South of the Song Tử island group; it comprises Thị Tứ Island and the stone beaches in the North and the South. Thị Tứ island (the English name is Thi Tu Island & Reefs) lies at coordinates 11°03.2 N, 114° 17. E. The island has an oval shape, is 550m wide and 700m long and has fresh water well. On the island there are trees such as terminalia and poon trees and a lot of climbing plants. Around the island, there are many submerged stone beaches and seaweeds.

In the North of Thị Tứ island, there are stone beaches such as Hoài An Reef (coordinates 11°03.7 N, 114°13.3 E); Tri Lễ (Sandy Cay, coordinates 11°04.5 N, 114°15.4 E); Cái Vung (coordinates 11°02.0 N, 114°10.5 E); Vĩnh Hảo (coordinates 11°05.6 N, 114°04.8 E).

In the South of Thị Tứ island and 14 nautical miles away from the island is Xu Bi Reef (Subi Reef), coordinates 10°55.1 N, 114°04.8 E).

- The Loại Ta island group lies in the East of the Thị Tứ island group; it comprises Loại Ta Island and coral dunes, reefs and beaches.

Loại Ta Island (the English name is Loaita Island) lies at coordinates 10°40,1 N, 114°25.4 E. The island has a round form with diameter of 300m, a height of about 2m; on the island there are a lot of big trees. In the North of the island, there are a lot of coconut trees. The island is surrounded with white sand beaches, creating beautiful seascapes; the island also has fresh water well with not so much water.

Next to it is Loại Ta Bắc Reef (Loaita Reef, coordinates 11°42' N, 114°2r E); Loại Ta Nam (Loaita South, coordinates 10°42.1 N, 114°19.7 E); Đường Reef (coordinates 11°01.3 N, 114°41.8 E); An Nhơn Bắc Reef (coordinates 10°46.4 N, 114°35.4 E); Lan Can (or An Nhơn) coral cay (Lankan Cay, coordinates 10°45' N, 114°47.9 E); An Lão Reef (Menzeis Reef, coordinates 11°09.1 N, 114°47.9 E); Cá Nhám Reef (coordinates 10°52.8 N, 114°55.3 E); Coconut Island and so on.


Photo 2: Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos in the East Sea

- The Nam Yết island group (or Ti Gia - Tizart Bank) lies in the South of the Loại Ta island group, comprising islands, reefs and beaches:

Nam Yet (the English name is Nam Yiet Island) is the highest island of the archipelago, the second largest after Ba Bình Island, 11 nautical miles from Ba Bình Island to the South, 13 nautical miles from Sơn Ca Island to the Southwest. Nam Yet Island lies in the South of this island group, at coordinates 10°10.9 N, 114°21.6 E. The island has an oval shape, is a bit narrow in the width, 700m in length, 3m to 4.7m in height, and the surface land area and the coral shelf is about 1.3 km2. There are a lot of trees and tropical thorny trees. The island is surrounded by atolls and submerged stone beaches.

Sơn Ca Island (the English name is Sand Cay) lies at coordinates 10°22.6N, 114°28.7 E and is 6.2 nautical miles away from Ba Bình Island to the East. The island has an oval shape, is narrow in width and lies in the direction of Northwest - Southeast with a length of 440m, a width of 156m, a height of 3.5m to 3.8m, the area of the raised part and coral shelf is about 0.7 km2.

Ba Bình Island (the English name is Itu Aba Island) lies at coordinates 10°22.8 N, 114°21.8 E; it is 1,360 m in length, 0.5 km2 in area and is considered the largest island of Trường Sa archipelago, but a bit lower than Nam Yết Island.

The reefs and beaches: Núi Thị Reef (Petley Reef, coordinates 10°24.7 N, 114°35.2 E); Gaven Reef (Gaven Reef, coordinates 10°12.7 N, 114°13.4E); Lớn Reef (Great Discovery Reef, coordinates 10°03.7 N, 113°51.1 E); Nhỏ Reef (Small Discovery Reef, coordinates 10°01.5 N, 114°01.4E); Én Đất Reef (Eldad Reef, coordinates 10°21.3 N, 114°41.8 E); Lạc Reef (coordinates 10°09.9 N, 114°15.1 E); Đền Cây Có Reef (Western or Flora Temple Reef, coordinates 10°15.4 N, 113°36.6 E); Bàn Than Reef (coordinates 10°23.3 N, 114°24.7 E), etc.

In the Southwest of the Nam Yết island group is Chữ Thập Reef (Fiery Cross Reef, coordinates 09°39.8 N, 112°59.0 E). Chữ Thập Reef is the highest of a shallow beach of 25m in length, 6km in width in the maximum. It belongs to Vietnam, and yet, it has been occupied by China since 1988.

In general, this island group has got good living condition with fertile land suitable to cultivation of vegetables.

- The Sinh Tồn island group lies in the South of the Nam Yết island group, comprising:

Sinh Tồn Island (the English name is Sin Cowe Island) lies in the North of Trường Sa archipelago, at coordinates 09°53.2 N, 114° 19.7 E, 15 nautical miles away from Sinh Tồn island to the West. The island runs all through to the East - West direction with a length of 382m, a width of 115m and lies completely on the submerged coral foundation with the surface area and coral shelf of 0.9km2. Sinh Tồn Island is the commune-level administrative unit of Trường Sa Island District, Khánh Hòa Province.

Sinh Tồn Đông Island (the English name is Uncharted or Union Banks & Reefs) lies in the North of Trường Sa archipelago, at coordinate 09°54.3 N, 114°33.7 E, 15 nautical miles away from Sinh Tồn Island to the East. The island is 160 meters long, 59 meters wide and 2.5 meters to 3 meters high. At the lowest ebb tide, the raised and coral shelf area is about 0.5km2.

Ken Nan Reef (Kennan Reef, coordinate 09°53.7 N, 114°25.6 E); Len Đao Reef (Uncharted, coordinate 09°46.8 N, 114°22.2 E); Gạc Ma Reef (Johnson South Reef, coordinates 09°43.2 N, 114°16.6 E); Cô Lin Reef (Collins Reef, coordinates 09°46.4 N, 114°15.2 E); Nhạn Gia Reef (coordinates 09°53.9 N, 114°20.6 E); Tư Nghĩa Reef (Hughes Reef, coordinates 09°55.1 N, 114°30.9 E); Bãi Khung Reef (Holiday Reef, coordinates 09°58.0 N, 114°33.7 E); Đức Hòa Reef (Empire Reef, coordinates 09°58.8 N, 114°35.3 E); Ba Đầu Reef (Whitsun Reef, coordinates 09°53.9 N, 114°39.0 E); An Bình Reef (Ross Reef, coordinates 09°54.5 N, 114°35.7 E); Bia Reef (Bamfore Reef, coordinates 09°52.2 N, 114°30.5 E); Văn Nguyên Reef (Jone Reef, coordinates 09°50.1 N, 114°27.3 E); Phúc Sỹ Reef (Higgen Reef, coordinates 09°48.0 N, 114°23.8 E); Bình Khê Reef (Endmund Reef, coordinates 09.°54.0 N, 114°23.1 E); Nghĩa Hành Reef (Lovele Reef, coordinates 09°51.3 N, 114°16.6 E); Tam Trung Reef (coordinates 09°50.2 N, 114°16.1 E); Sơn Hà Reef (Gent Reef, coordinates 09°52.9N, 114°18.2 E), etc.

- The Trường Sa island group lies in the South and Southwest of the Sinh Tồn group, stretching along the width with the following islands and reefs:

The largest island is Trường Sa Island (the English name is Spratly Island) at coordinates 08°38.8 N, 111°55.1 E, 254 nautical miles away from Cam Ranh (Khánh Hòa Province). The island has an isosceles triangle shape, the bottom of which deviates a bit to the North; it is 630 meters long and 354 meters wide with the whole area of the island and the coral shelf being 0.5km2. On the island, there are no big trees; the biggest kinds of small trees are nam sâm (aralia), rau sam (purslain) and muống biển (sea spinach). Sea birds include white sea gulls, sky larks and terns. The island has fresh water well, but the water has stinking smell of coral. Trường Sa Island is also Trường Sa township, administrative center of Trường Sa Island District, Khánh Hòa Province.

Đông Trường Sa Island (the English name is Central Reef) is at coordinates 08°56.1 N, 112°20.9 E, 260 nautical miles away from Cam Ranh Khánh Hòa Province. The island lies on the Eastern part of a submerged coral reef with a length of 517m and a width of 106m; the area of its raised part and coral shelf is 0.7km2.

Phan Vinh Island, also called Hòn Sập Island (the English name is Pearson Reef) lies at coordinates 08°58.1 N, 113°49,1 E. The island lies in the direction of Northeast - Southwest with a length of 132m and a width of 72m; the area of its raised part and coral shelf is 1.2 km2.

Đá Lát Reef (Dallas Reef, coordinates 08°40.7 N, 113°40.1 E); Đá Đông Island (East Reef, coordinates 08°49.7 N, 112°35.8 E).

Đá Tây Reef (West Reef, coordinates 8°52' N, 112°14' E) and Châu Viên Reef (Cuarateron Reef, coordinates 08°51.9 N, 112°50. E); Tốc Tan Reef (Alison Reef, coordinates 08°48.7 N, 113°59.0 E); Núi Le Reef (Coznwallis South Reef, coordinates 08°42.6 N, 114°11.1 E; Tiên Nữ Reef (Tennent Reef, coordinates 08.51.3 N, 114.39.3 E).

- The An Bang island group lies in the South of the Trường Sa island group, comprising An Bang Island and reefs and beaches:

An Bang Island (the English name is Ambonay Cay), at coordinates 07°53.8 N, 112°55.1 E, 75 nautical miles from Trường Sa Island to the Southeast. The island lies along the North-South direction; it is 137 m long; its widest part is 75m, the narrowest part is 15m to 20m. An Bang Island has a bag shape with its base lying in the East and its mouth getting smaller in the West.

Kiệu Ngựa Bank (coordinates 07°44.3 N, 114°15.9 E); Tân Châu Reef (coordinates 10°51.5 N, 114°52.5 E); Lục Giang Reef (coordinates 10°15.2 N, 115°18.0 E); Long Hải Reef (coordinates 10°11.5,115°18.0 E); Công Đo Reef (coordinates 08°21.5 N, 115°13.4 E); Kỳ Vân Reef (coordinates 08°00.5 N, 113°55.0 E); Hoa Lau Reef (coordinates 07°24.1 N, 113°50.2 E); Ba Kè Reef (coordinates 07°56' N, 111°44' E); Đất Bank (coordinates 07°4T N, 113°10' R); Đinh Bank (coordinates 07°34' N, 111°34' E); Vũng Mây Bank (coordinates 07°47' N, 113°35' E); Thuyền Chài Bank (coordinates 08°11.0 N, 113°18.6 E); Hà Tần Reef (coordinates 0-8°04' N, 113°10' E); Trăng Khuyết Bank (coordinates 08°53.7 N, 116°17.1 E); Sác Lốt Reef (coordinates 6°56' N, 113°36' E); Louise Reef (coordinates 6°20.9 N, 113°15.4 E).

- The Bình Nguyên island group lies in the East, comprising Bình Nguyên Island, Vĩnh Viễn Island and reefs and banks:

Bình Nguyên Island (the English name is Flat Island) lies at coordinates 10°49.2 N, 115°49.8 E. The island is low and narrow in width; its area is 0.0057km2.

Vĩnh Viễn Island (the English name is Nanshan Island) lies at coordinates 10°44.2 N115°48.5 E; it is 580m long and 2m high and its area is about 0057km2.

In the South near Vĩnh Viễn Island are Hoa Reef (coordinates 10°32.0 N, 115°44.1 E); Đich-kin-xơn Reef (coordinates 10°32' N, 115°47' E); Đin Reef (coordinates 10°30' N, 115°42' E); Hàn Sơn Reef (coordinates 10°28' N, 115°1T E); Pét Reef (coordinates 10°27' N, 115°46' E); Giắc-xơn Coral Dune.

Farther in the South are Vành Khăn Reef (coordinates 9°54.3 N, 115°32.3 E); Cỏ Mây Bank (coordinates 09°44.5 N, 115°52.0 R); Suối Ngà Bank (coordinates 09°19.1 N, 115°56.2 E); Bốc Xan Reef (coordinates 09°35' N, 116°09' E); Sa Bin Bank (coordinates 09°44.7 N, 116°30.0 E).

In the East are Hợp Kim Reef (coordinates 10°48.5 N, 116°05.5 E); Mỏ Vịt Bank (coordinates 10°53.7 N, 116°26.3 E); Ba Cờ Reef (coordinates 10°43.0 N, 116°10.0 E); Khúc Giác Reef (coordinates 10°37' N, 116o10' E); Giỏ Giá Reef (coordinates 10°48.6 N, 116°51.5 E); Nam Bank (coordinates 10°28' N, 116°42' E); Chà Và Reef (coordinates 10°32.8 N, 116°56.2 E); Nâu Bank (coordinates 11°44' N, 117°18' E); Rạch Vang Bank (coordinates 10°40' N, 117°16' E); Rạch Lấp Bank; Na Khoai Bank.

3.2. Geo-political position of two archipelagos

These islands all have very small areas. Due to their very harsh natural conditions, the living conditions on the islands are not suitable to normal human life. The soil on the islands added with guano becomes more fertile; yet, trees cannot develop normally due to the shortage of fresh water and excessive salt caused by sea storms. Before there were disputes, there were almost no humans living on these two archipelagos permanently. At present, all the parties claiming their sovereignty over these two archipelagos have their forces garrisoned and meteorological technicians positioned on some islands and half­submerged shoals (except Brunei), yet their existence is completely dependent on the supplies from the mainland. The real economic potential of the two archipelagos is yet to be exploited but to focus on fishing and guano exploitation. However, the two archipelagos have important geo-strategic, political and national defense values.

Firstly, according to Article 121, clause 3 of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own can at least bring to the countries possessing it 1,543km2 of the territorial sea[25]. So, any island or rock could bring to the surrounding waters the value many times more than the value of these islands or rocks themselves.

Secondly, islands, rocks, reefs and half-submerged shoals of the two archipelagos lie in the middle of the East Sea and in a scattered way in a vast sea, so the overall value of these two archipelagos will also be multiplied.

Thirdly, the Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa islands can serve as a floating aircraft carrier, military bases and refueling and repair stations, or can be used for military training, the test of weapons and warfare operations. In 1939, Japan had a plan on building a submarine base, turning Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos into a remote defense line to protect the continent, and the advanced outposts to start any attacks, to control the navigation routes and the waters in the region. The occupation of the archipelagos can also allow the control of the air space over the East Sea and the claim of the natural resources lying deep in the sea bed.

3.3. Natural resources in the area of the two archipelagos

Apart from the sea position, by lying almost in the middle of the East Sea, controlling 39 important sea routes of the world, the area of the two archipelagos also bears an abundant economic potential, which is reflected through the resources of seafood and oil and gas. On the other hand, there are mineral resources on the sea bed and other seemingly endless energy resources such as tidal wave energy or sea currents, which are yet to be investigated and assessed.

On seafood: Due to the fact that Hoàng Sa archipelago has been occupied by the foreign forces, the data of seafood resources in this area is outdated. As for the Trường Sa archipelago area, according to a research document of the Seafood Research Institute (under the former Ministry of Fisheries, now the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) in 2004, the total reserve of assorted seafood is about 181,584 tons and the possibility of exploitation is about 89,464 tons, in which, the reserve of bass-bottom fish in this area is about 124,879 tons and the possibility of exploitation is about 62,224 tons. The quantity of deep-sea demersal fish accounts for 23.84%, equal to 14,838 tons and the quantity of bass-bottom fish is 76.16%, equal to 42,406 tons. Especially, fish living from the 45m water layer to the water surface is estimated at 56,705 tons and the possibility of exploitation is up to 27,220 tons[26]. Chinese data says there are over 3,000 species of fish in this sea area.

On Oil and Gas: The oil and gas resources in this area are estimated to be huge. However, due to different reasons, this sea area is yet to be comprehensively exploited; all the estimates of the oil and gas reserve in Hoàng Sa archipelago are still preliminary and for reference. As for Trường Sa archipelago, all the parties concerned have only conducted geomorphological and surface geological surveys.

In general, it is believed that the Trường Sa archipelago area has a lot of prospects though the oil and gas reserve here has been estimated very differently. Some American experts think that this area does not have as much oil and gas as expected and some countries have overstated the figure in an attempt to excite and to find ways to support their claims. The Russian documents say that the oil and gas reserve in this area is estimated at 10 billion tons. China's comprehensive scientific research work on Nansha archipelago and its vicinity made public in 2003 estimates that the Trường Sa marine area has a reserve of 41 billion and 90,000 tons of oil and from 8 billion to 10 billion cubic meters of gas; the oil and gas reserve that can be exploited is at one billion and 180,000 tons; other minerals are estimated at 3.1 billion tons and the recyclable energy has a reserve of 630 million kw[27]. In another document, it says that China s oil and gas reserve in the East Sea (the South China Sea) is at about 23 to 30 billion tons, accounting for 1/3 of the total resources of China[28]. Recently, initial information on the new form of energy resources, the fire ice" lying deep in Hoàng Sa's and Trường Sa's sea floor, has caught much attention of experts. The reserve of "fire ice" on the Northern part of the East Sea has been assessed by China as being equal to half of the total crude oil in the mainland of China. According to the measurement calculation, 1m3 of fire ice could be able to liberate 200m[29] of methane with power density being 10 times as much as coal or 2 to 5 times as much as natural gas.30

On the mineral resources: Apart from oil and gas, the East Sea also contains various kinds of other precious minerals. The reserve of polymetallic ore containing the metals of strategic value such as iron, manganese, wolfram and others is yet to be fully evaluated. This is the high-grade source of materials necessary for electronics, aviation and precision mechanics industries.

In short, the biggest resource of these two archipelagos is the position resource and the right to control the surrounding sea areas. Other forms of resources are still in potential form. The position resource has become gradually bigger together with the development of the Law on the Sea, attracting the attention of countries and giving rise to the dispute relating to the surrounding sea areas.

** *

Vietnam lies in the East of the Indochinese Peninsula with its back against mountains and its face turning towards the sea. Vietnam's sea is called the East Sea with its extremely simple meaning because the sea covers the whole Eastern part of the country. The East Sea is the bridge connecting the continental Southeast Asia with the sea and island Southeast Asia; it is the confluence of the major cultures and civilizations of the world. Vietnam's East Sea lies on the international sea route from West to East, from South to North, thus has taken a very special geo-political, geo-economic and geo-cultural position.

The sea and islands of Vietnam are the living and developing space of the community of Vietnamese people, they are the door to the world of the country and the nation all through its historical process and are becoming the endless resources for the strategy of construction and defense of Vietnam in the current complicated context. So, more than ever before, we should have correct and precise awareness of the scope, position and potential of the sea and islands pf Vietnam.

On the existing map, the area that Vietnam calls the East Sea is called by China as the South China Sea. Actually, before the first decade of the 20th Century, when China took the extreme point of the South of Hainan Island (at latitude 18°13' N) as the Southernmost boundary of China's territories and territorial sea, the South China Sea also began from this position to run northwards to Taiwan. So, the East Sea in Vietnam's conception has so far been only the continuation of the South China Sea in China s traditional conception and it seems having no overlapping on this sea area. However, if it is only the placename with the meaning being purely the sea area lying in the South of China, then even though the South China Sea could be lowered to the East Sea area in Vietnam's traditional conception, it would not be absurd. Yet, China's recent map including all of the East Sea as belonging to China, with the nine-dotted line like a cow's tongue encompassing 80% of the East Sea area, is extremely absurd and it runs completely counter to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. On July 12, 2016, the Arbitration Court set up in accordance with Appendix VII of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea announced the Court verdict that there is completely no legal basis for China to claim its historical rights to the resources in the sea areas inside the "nine-dotted line".

Biển Đông (the East Sea) is the common name for the maritime areas lying in the East of the territories of each country and for this reason, the origin of each name for Biển Đông must be attached to the name of the country or of the territories facing the Western coast of the sea. In the Asia-Pacific region, beside Vietnam's East Sea, there is also the East Sea of the Republic of Korea or the East Sea of Korea, i.e. the sea area in the East of the Korean peninsula; the East Sea of China is the sea area lying in the East of mainland China, the central position of which is the estuary of the Yangtze river.

The name Biển Đông (the East Sea) of Vietnam appeared at the dawn of the national building and is closely associated with the coastline range in the East of the first ancient countries and was integrated gradually into the mam flow of history with the advance towards the South of the Vietnamese nation, which began from 1069 and fundamentally completed in 1757; and from then on was reunited in a stable and complete way with the coming into being of the Nguyễn dynasty in the early 19th Century. The process of forming, changing and establishing the essence of the name Biến Dông (the East Sea) reflects in a true sense of the word the history of Vietnam in its capacity as a peninsular country with its concrete and lively image of the Vietnamese people, of the Vietnamese inhabitants, communities standing before the sea, living with the sea and dying without leaving the sea. Name can have a lot of different meanings, even one name only could depend on each condition and specific situation to have different implications; but the name Biển Đông (the East Sea) is the fruit of the national construction and defense of Vietnam since thousands of years ago and certainly it will last forever after without any changes.


[1] At the 7th International Seminar on the East Sea organized in Vũng Tàu in November 2015, journalist Bill Hayton warned that in the past time, though there are a lot of research works on the disputes on the East Sea, it seems that these research works haven't known the source of the original materials as well as failing to base on the historical context, resulting In falsifying a lot the assessments of the dispute. He urged that it is necessary to return to the historical issue of sovereignty in a serious way. All the assessments of the dispute must be based on the historical evidence in a full, objective and honest manner. This Is also the principle of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the general demand of progressive humankind on the settlement of dispute which is happening in a fierce way on the East Sea.

[2] The South China Sea is an international name put by the International Hydrographic Organization by basing on the place name of a littoral country with the greatest mainland area, but it is not synonymous with the fact that the country must have the largest sea area or the longest coast line, neither does it imply about the sovereignty as China has taken it by mistake. In the past China called the Northern part of the South China Sea as Nan Hai, but since the 20th Century, Nan Hai has expanded to the whole of the South China Sea. From 2011, the Philippines has called the sea area in the West of the Philippines as the West Sea, and implicitly the West Sea is only identified as the sea area lying in the West adjacent to this country without including the whole South China Sea. Of late, a number of scholars and international organizations have proposed to change the South China Sea into the South East Asia Sea so as to fit with the real state of geographical position and to avoid misunderstanding and abuses.




[3] Cited from Nguyễn Hồng Thao, International law and sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos. References (Supplement of Information on Strategic and Scientific Research of Public Security), Hanoi, 2010, p.18.

[4] Cited from Nguyễn Hồng Thao, International law and sovereignty over Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa archipelagos, Ibid, p. 18.19.

* If it is to compare with the world's average rate, in every 600 km2 of the land territory, there is 1km of coast (the rate: 0.00166), then Vietnam has the marine index of 0.01, 6 times higher than the world's average index.

** The farthest point of the land boundary of Điện Biên Province is less than 500km from the coast. The land boundary at the narrowest point of Quảng Bình Province is 50km away from the coast. Many areas of the coastal strip of Vietnam can link with the territorial areas of China's Southwest, Laos, Thailand's Northeast and Cambodia through the sea ports reaching out to the East Sea, the oceans and the world.

*** This means that if Vietnam is divided in 8 parts, the sea occupies 4 parts (about 50%), mountains occupy 3 parts (about 37.5%) and the fields only occupy 1 part (approx. 12.5%).

[5] Nguyễn Hồng Thao, International law and sovereignty over two Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa archipelagos, Ibid, p. 16-19.

[6] They are Hồ Chí Minh City, Hải Phòng, Đà Nẵng cities, Quảng Ninh, Thái Bình, Nam Định, Ninh Bình, Thanh Hóa, Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị, Thừa Thiên Huế, Quảng Nam, Quảng Ngãi, Bình Định, Phú Yên, Khánh Hòa, Ninh Thuận, Bình Thuận, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, Tiền Giang, Bến Tre, Trà Vinh, Sóc Trăng, Bạc Liêu, Cà Mau and Kiên Giang provinces.

[7] The island districts: Cô Tô, Vân Đồn (Quảng Ninh province), Cát Hải, Bạch Long Vĩ (Hải Phòng City), Cồn Cỏ (Quảng Trị province), Hoàng Sa (Đà Nẵng City), Lý Sơn (Quảng Ngãi province), Trường Sa (Khánh Hòa province), Phú Quý (Bình Thuận province), Côn Đảo (Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu province), Phú Quốc, Kiên Hải (Kiên Giang province).

[8] The Central Propaganda and Education Committee, 100 questions - answers on the sea and islands for Vietnamese youth, Information and Communications Publisher, 2014, p. 18-30,49-52.

[9] China has just named It Yonlequndao (Vĩnh Lạc archipelago).

[10] China has just named It Shanhudao (Coral Island).

[11] China has just named It Guanqundao (Cam Tuyền Island).

[12] China has just named it Jinqingdao (Tấn Khanh Island).

[13] China has just named it Chenghangdao (Thâm Hàng Island).

[14] China has still relied on the Western placename Jinyindao (Kim Ngân Island).

[15] China calls it Panshiyu (Bàn Thạch dữ).

[16] When It just moved down to the East Sea, China called it Nam Cực Island; meaning the Southernmost Island, very far away from China; however after that, it was changed into Zhongjiandao (Trung Kiến Island).

[17] China calls it Xuande Qunda (Tuyên Đức archipelago).

[18] China calls it Yongxingdao (Vĩnh Hưng Island).

[19] China calls It Dongdao (Đông Island).

[20] China translates it Into Zhongdao (Middle Island).

[21] China translates it into Beidao (North Island).

[22] China translates it into Nandao (South Island).

[23] China translates it into Shidao (Thạch Đảo).

[24] Marius Gjetnes, Marine Zones Generated by the Spratlys: Legal Analysis and Geographical Overview// Energy and Security in the South China Sea Project, University of Oslo, 24-26 April 1999; cited in Nguyễn Hồng Thao: International Law and Sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos, Ibid., p. 21.

[25] However, this Is also the issue that needs more discussions because according to the verdict of the Arbitration Court on July 12, 2016, there is not any geographical structure in Trường Sa that is capable of creating an economic exclusive zone and continental shelf of 200 nautical miles; that is why all the geological structures here can only enjoy the regulation on territorial sea of 12 nautical miles.

[26] Ministry of Fisheries, Seafood Research Institute, Report on "Evaluation of Resources of Marine Creatures and Environmental Status In Hoàng Sa archipelago area"; cited in Nguyễn Hồng Thao's: International Law and Sovereignty over Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa archipelagos, Ibid., p. 23.

[27] In the Fundamentals on the planning for China's national marine economic development, made public on May 9,2003; cited in Nguyễn Hồng Thao's: International Law and Sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos, Ibid., p. 24.

[28] News from web page Phượng Hoàng (China) on July 6, 2004; cited in Nguyễn Hồng Thao's: International Law and Sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos, Ibid., p. 24.

[29] "China's development strategy of South China Sea", Exploitation and Sea management magazine, No. 1/2008. An extract from the special reference document on December 8, 2008; cited in Nguyễn Hồng Thao: International Law and Sovereignty over Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa archipelagos, Ibid., p. 24.