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Beware of China’s actions and attempts to invade the South China Sea

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The sovereignty dispute over the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea between Vietnam and China has lasted for 45 years, which is one of the longest disputes between claimants over the same islands. This is also a complicated dispute without any legal or political solution so far, somehow more complicated with repeated tensions and settlements followed by growing flares up since the Chinese side attempts to change the status quo by deliberately changing the form of the islands, expanding long-term occupation in more and more waters in order to gain control of the trade flows in the South China Sea. At the same time, China deliberately seeks to take the Paracel Islands as a naval base for protecting its mainland from far away, or as a springboard to attack its neighboring countries.

After the Chinese navy took the Paracel Islands by force from the Republic of Vietnam in January 1974, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (later the Socialist Republic of Vietnam), the legitimate successor of sovereignty over the Paracel Islands, has repeatedly presented evidence of Vietnam's legitimate and lawful sovereignty; strongly protecting its national sovereignty and demanding China to return the islands to Vietnam. Vietnam has also adopted a series of peaceful measures in resolving disputes with China, including friendly meetings at all levels, discussions with China’s relevant agencies, sending correspondences and notes, organizing private and public meetings, sharing information with international public and the United Nations... Despite these measures, the Chinese side did not stop but rather make more provocative actions, encroaching on Vietnamese sovereignty, running against international conventions and ethics in relations with neighboring countries, which are showcased by the following noticeable actions:

On March 14, 1988, China put naval forces at war with Vietnam's on-duty forces at six groups of islands and reefs in Spratly archipelago including Fiery Cross, Cuarteron, Gaven, Hughes/Hugh Reef, Johnson and Subi Reefs. With advantages of large army and vessels, China occupied these islands and reefs.

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Photo: China's first entirely home-built aircraft carrier began sea trials earlier this year (Source: Internet)

On February 25, 1992, China passed the Law on Territorial Sea of the People's Republic of China, which not only asserted China's claim to the Paracel and Spratly Islands but also reiterated its claims to almost the entire South China Sea, from Taiwan to James Shoal in Borneo’s offshore.

On May 8, 1992, China unreasonably allowed its partner, Crestone Company from the US, to conduct oil exploration in Vanguard Bank area within Vietnam's continental shelf.

On May 15, 1996, China joined the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and pledged to settle disputes "in accordance with recognized international law." However, on the same day, China announced an ordinance to expand its territorial sea, which applied the baseline mapping of the archipelago nations to the Paracel Islands. This action was regarded by scholars in Southeast Asia as "inconsistent", a topic for questioning at ASEAN meetings then.

On June 21, 2012, China blatantly declared the establishment of "Sansha city" with Woody Island as its capital, with the 9-dash line including Paracel and Spratly Islands as the administrative boundary. A city with an administrative size that accounts for 80% of the South China Sea is an unprecedented form of city in human history because it delineates millions of square kilometers of sea area into a "lake" in the city following the internal water regulation of a country, directly influencing not only the South China Sea countries but also the freedom of navigation, overflight and security of others.

On June 23, 2012, China Offshore Oil and Gas Corporation (CNOOC) issued an international bid notice for 9 oil and gas blocks located entirely within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, just 37 nautical miles off Phu Quy coast, a region that has never been in dispute with China.

On May 2, 2014, China installed the Haiyang Shiyou-981 oil rig in an area just 17 nautical miles off the south of Triton Island which is located within Vietnam's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone to conduct oil and gas exploitation within Vietnam’s sovereign waters. The Vietnamese people had to spend more than two months on the sea to "kick" the rig out of Vietnam's waters.

This is to brief blatant actions in daylight by China, acting as a big country to infringe upon the sovereignty of Vietnam and other the countries in the South China Sea, which were discovered, condemned and fought against by Vietnam. Countries in the region and the international community also observed and collectively protested these actions as irrational and illegal ones, forcing China to falter for some moments.

In addition, China also has many other tricks aimed at monopolizing control of South China Sea that are known to just a few. Without proper awareness, countries in the region with sovereignty disputes with China and even international legal and archaeological experts may be put in its traps one day, with the following actions that should be seriously noted by everyone:

Under a viewpoint and mindset that its nation's maritime sovereignty includes both legal and historical evidences, China has always demanded international public opinion and law to consider historical factors in forming its sovereignty in the South China Sea. And to ensure that China has reliable historical evidence in the South China Sea for a long time, this evidence should appear in places where they need to. So Chinese unnumbered fishing vessels were ordered to sail offshore to silently drop Chinese 'antique' items that had been searched for, collected and excavated inland years ago, particularly those which are old, broken, no longer valuable but bearing the signs of previous Chinese feudal dynasties, into the waters claimed by China as "historic waters". Then one day when a dispute breaks out, China will show countries that their "historical evidence" is already at the bottom of the sea, which will be hardly denied by these countries.

Secretly dropping ancient items into the sea sounds easy, the thing is to let them appear in other people's land. So China opened up secret campaigns for "frogmen" to infiltrate the islands controlled by other claimants, dig and bury those items deeply under the ground. In case it is impossible to break in due to tight control, China can use money to buy locals to help them bury the items instead. Chinese fishing vessels and fishermen working at sea communicated and interacted with other countries' fishermen and offshore fishing vessels, making them an ideal bridge to bury the "historical evidence" on targeted islands. This explained when the local governments and people took underground works on the islands that has never had any footprints of Chinese people, they were startled to find many Chinese "artifacts" under the ground without knowing when they were buried.

That's not all but just one way to fabricate evidence for China’s sovereignty. Another way that few people know is to put carved sovereignty stones just under the disputed sites to China’s contenders’ surprises, which is done by Chinese professional divers. They secretly got onboard minisubs carrying necessary tools, quietly and secretly approaching foot of the atolls in the deep sea, checking and searching for flat coral cliffs, then drilling, sharpening, and carving into flat walls with Chinese emblem or Chinese ancient letters to "mark" its sovereignty. The true owners of those atolls can neither control the deep sea floor nor know right under their feet, they were "intruded by neighbor".

Therefore, occasionally the Chinese media and authorities reported that they "happened" to find in this or that sea area within the ‘9-dash line’ in the South China Sea some Chinese antiques, which are excavated then noisily exhibited and communicated in order to draw the world’s attention, especially China’s "in-house" journalists and some ignorant archaeologists to come and see. These people who do not know the truth will easily accept and boast, "True! China probably has historic waters in that place.”

China's actions in the South China Sea, both overtly and covertly, show that countries with territorial sovereignty disputes with China must be constantly vigilant to protect their lands, as people say, vigilance is never redundant. And as a Western politician who is very knowledgeable about Chinese culture and customs said, "When you shake hands with a Chinese, you have to check how many of your fingers remain."

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