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Small islands that could blow up relations between China and Vietnam

"Join Vietnam!" call about 30 students even harder. Their chant echoes at the three-story Paracel Islands Museum in Da Nang, which officials say cost the government of Vietnam $ 1.8 million.

Since opening in 2018, about half of its 40,000 visitors are students who can explore exhibits, including documents, maps and photographs, all curated to hammer home one point.

The Parassel Islands belong to Vietnam. Not for China.

Named by 16th-century Portuguese cartographers, Parcels are a collection of 130 small coral islands and reefs in the northwestern South China Sea. They maintain abundant marine life. But more than just being a rich fishing area, there is speculation that the islands could harvest potential energy reserves.

They have no locals to speak of, only the Chinese military garrisons number 1

,400, according to the CIA. [19659003] But there is no certainty who really owns them. Ask an expert and the answer will be Vietnam has the strongest claim. Ask another question and the answer will be China.

There is no doubt that the Plots have been in Chinese hands for 45 years.

As Beijing increasingly claims almost all of the South China Sea for its territory and strives to be the supreme influence on resources and access in and outside the region, Hanoi is getting tired.

The conflict is rooted in history.

If anyone in Vietnam knows the importance of the Paracel Islands Museum, it is Tran Duck Anh Son.

One of the leading South China Sea experts in the country, he helped treat the museum's materials, including what he believed to be the earliest evidence of Vietnam's sovereignty over the Paracels: a 1686 map showing that the islands belong to the [19659002] Nguyen Dynasty, which governs much of modern-day Vietnam.

  A map in support of Vietnam's sovereignty claims over China is shown at the Paracel Islands Museum.

At the end of the 17th century, the Nguyen Dynasty sent a fleet of fishermen to Jui Hoang Sa, "to occupy these islands and collect edible bird nests and seafood to be returned to their masters," says Anh Son.

These fishermen gave their islands their Vietnamese name: Hoang Sa Archipelago. In 1816, King Jia Long of the Nguyen Dynasty formally annexed the Paracels, establishing Vietnam's sovereignty, says Anh Son.

But China says its claims to the islands can be traced back thousands of years.

"Chinese activities in the South China Sea date back more than 2000 years. China was the first country to discover, name, explore and exploit the resources of the South China Sea and the first to continuously exercise sovereign powers over them," the Foreign Ministry said. the country is said in a document dated 2014.

China calls the Paracels Islands Sisha.

  $ 1.8 million Parasail Museum opened in Da Nang, Vietnam in 2018

Experts say it's more complicated than who first names or maps the area.

Mark Hoskin, a researcher at the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London, says that independent records of 1823 show Chinese ships and fishermen in the Parcels.

And by law, says Hoskin, Vietnam may have abandoned any claim to the Plots in 1958, when the then Prime Minister of North Vietnam wrote a letter to the Chinese government saying that Hanoi "acknowledges and approves" the claims of Beijing for sovereignty over the South China Sea and its territories.

But others give legal rise to Vietnam, including Raul Pedroza, a former professor of international law at the US Naval War College.

Pedrose claims in a 2014 analysis of a CNA non-profit research organization that Vietnam showed a clear interest in sovereignty over the Paracels from the early 1700s onwards and maintained it during French colonial times during the first half of the 20th century and the 1954 division China and the subsequent unification of Vietnam in 1975. [19659003] China showed no real interest in sovereignty until 1909, when it sent a small fleet of naval vessels to inspect and mark markers on some of the islands, argues Pedroza.

  Photographs of exhibits at the Paracel Islands Museum show ships that collided with China

Even then, the Chinese did not live there. while the Chinese occupation of Woody Island – the largest land mass in the Paracels – in 1956 and the rest of the archipelago in 1974 after a brief but bloody battle with the then South Vietnamese forces. But China's actions in both cases were in violation of the United Nations' restrictive power, which threatens the territorial integrity of another nation, Pedroza claims, and is not valid for defending sovereignty.

The 1974 battles that killed 53 South Vietnamese troops were highlighted at the Paracels Museum, detailing the battle, depictions of ships involved and photographs of those killed, testifying that "they gave to protect every inch of their homeland on the high seas. "

Of course, the Chinese version of events is that Beijing is taking back what rightfully belonged to China.

  DigitalGlobe image form, made in April 2016 on Woody Island in the South China Sea.
Since the expulsion of the last Vietnamese troops from the Paracels in 1974, China has been steadily reinforcing its claims to the islands and building military garrisons on them. airport and artificial harbor on Woody Island but this summer, China deployed J-10 fighter jets to the island, signaling to the region that "this is their territory and they can put military aircraft there whenever they want," said Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the US Joint Pacific Intelligence Center

"It is also stated that they can extend their air power over the South China Sea as needed or desired," Schuster says.

And in Da Nang, just 375 kilometers directly west of Parcelel, this ranked.

Signed that the problem was not resolved

Outside the Paracel Islands Museum sits the fishing boat 90152 TS.

At first glance, it doesn't look much different than some of the other boats being repaired along the coastal highway. But inside the museum, visitors learn its history.

  Fishing vessel 90152 sits in front of the Paracel Islands Museum in Da Nang, Vietnam. The ship sank with China in 2014, recovered from Vietnam and sits outside the museum as
sank in 2014 during a confrontation with a Chinese naval surveillance vessel near Paracelsus, later rescued by its crew from another Vietnamese boat. But the symbolism of this conflict remains strong.

"90152 TCs are evidence of allegations of dishonest actions by China," a museum spokesman said in an email, explaining how China's larger steel body easily overcomes the smaller, ie. wooden Vietnamese.

The boat is a symbol of Vietnam's "determination" to defend its sovereignty over the islands, the spokesman added.

Beijing's version of the 90152 story is different.

According to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, a Vietnamese vessel "chased" a Chinese fishing boat in waters near the Paracels. At that time, Xinhua reported that the Vietnamese boat overturned after jumping on a Chinese fishing boat.

  A Vietnamese fishing boat is moored off the beach in Da Nang, Vietnam, just across the highway from the Paracel Islands Museum.

This is the kind of incident that underscores how quickly things can

As China pushes its claims to offshore territory, it has built and consolidated islands in the Spratly chain – which has claims from Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines – while earlier this year it flooded boats and ships around the Philippines-controlled island of Titu.

And in an incident similar to the 2014 case, a Philippine fishing boat sank after colliding with a larger Chinese boat in early June. According to reports in Chinese state-owned media, a Chinese boat struck the Philippine boat as it quickly moved out of the area as its crew felt threatened by seven or eight Filipino boats that "besieged" it while fishing.

But the Philippine media rejected this, saying that a larger Chinese boat was trying to intimidate the Filipino.

Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Richard Haidaryan said it was indicative of "China's rise as an increasingly brazen regional hegemon."

He called the Chinese fishing fleet "the tip of the dagger of Beijing's efforts to dominate the neighboring waters."

Meanwhile, the South China Sea between Vietnam and China set off again this summer when a Chinese exploration ship and its escorts reached the Vietnam Exclusive Economic Zone – a 200-mile zone off the coast of the country where there are exclusive mineral rights – in They did.

It is estimated that there are significant gas and oil deposits in the area that Vietnam is trying to develop.

The leaders of Hanoi clearly express their dissatisfaction, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 19 calling on all Chinese ships to leave Vietnam's waters.

Analysts say China's actions are disturbing.

"Beijing tests not only Vietnam but also the United States and the international community," Huon Le Tou, senior analyst at the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy, wrote in an analysis this month.

Chinese aggressions in the South China Sea are tests from Beijing to see where all countries will go in support of "rule of law," she writes.

What can boost the island of Vietnam?

With its superior military and financial resources, China seemingly holds a hand in the fight for the South China Sea. Hanoi's search for Plots may be more mundane than practical.

"It's a bit of a mystery to me," says Bill Haighton, a fellow at the Asia-Pacific program at Chatham House in London. "Is the Vietnamese Communist Party really looking to bring back the islands? Do they expect to keep the population on the brink of nationalist hysteria indefinitely?"

Ben Bland, research director of the Southeast Asian Project at the Lowy Institute of Australia, says Vietnam uses "use it or lose it" practice. "Governments are keen to show that they administer these territories as a way to support or build a deeper framework around their territorial claims," ​​Bland says.

And there are finer ways of making claims, he said. Like a museum.

  Activists plant chrysanthemums and pray during a rally marking the 42nd anniversary of the 1974 naval battle between China and then South Vietnamese troops over the Paracel Islands in Hanoi on January 19, 2017.

But there seems to be little room for the intricacies of the Paracel Islands.

"The reality on the spot is that China has occupied the entire Paracel Group for 40 years and, if there is no military action by Vietnam to restore the archipelago, it will never leave," writes CNA senior associate Michael McDevit. this limits Hanoi's capabilities.

"Neither party is prepared to risk war to force the issue to end. The territorial claim is an endless journey, "according to Heaton.

Vietnamese expert Wihnam agrees Anh Sin.

" We can "We do not start a war with China because it would be absolutely devastating to our people," he said. "I know that China will not give in easily, but bringing a case against the International Tribunal is the only solution at the moment."

Street View

Vietnam does not restrict its propaganda campaign only to the Paracel Islands Museum.

In the imperial city of Hue, one of Vietnam's most popular tourist attractions in the historic capital a few hours north of Da Nang, there is a display of what Vietnam calls "China's oldest map of modern times." [19659041] In the Hue Citadel there is a map of what Vietnam calls “най-старата карта на съвременната Китай в Китай ”
” Това показва, че до началото на 20-ти век най-южната точка на територията на Китай е остров Хайнан и не се споменава нищо за архипелага Сиша и Нанша, които всъщност са Виетнам Хоанг Са ( Парацел) и архипелага Труон Са (Спрали), ” надписът на големия стенен дисплей чете. ” data-src-mini=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190813163923-imperial-city-vietnam-south-china-sea-islands-map-small-169.jpg” data-src-xsmall=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190813163923-imperial-city-vietnam-south-china-sea-islands-map-medium-plus-169.jpg” data-src-small=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190813163923-imperial-city-vietnam-south-china-sea-islands-map-large-169.jpg” data-src-medium=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190813163923-imperial-city-vietnam-south-china-sea-islands-map-exlarge-169.jpg” data-src-large=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190813163923-imperial-city-vietnam-south-china-sea-islands-map-super-169.jpg” data-src-full16x9=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190813163923-imperial-city-vietnam-south-china-sea-islands-map-full-169.jpg” data-src-mini1x1=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190813163923-imperial-city-vietnam-south-china-sea-islands-map-small-11.jpg” data-demand-load=”not-loaded” data-eq-pts=”mini: 0, xsmall: 221, small: 308, medium: 461, large: 781″ src=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhEAAJAJEAAAAAAP///////wAAACH5BAEAAAIALAAAAAAQAAkAAAIKlI+py+0Po5yUFQA7″/>

" the beginning of the 20th century, the southernmost point in China is Hainan Island and no mention is made of any of the Sisha and Nansha archipelagos; which are actually the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spral) archipelago, "reads the large wall display.

Meanwhile, on the Da Nang coast, the road is busy with traffic. Visitors pass through its many lanes, which are not regulated by traffic lights, into a ballet in which cars and scooters barely slow down while pedestrians delicately enter the highway unharmed.

The sign says the beach is called My Khe, but some tourist maps and guides call it "China Beach."

It was a nickname given to him by American soldiers for whom it was a rest and rest stop. .

But the Vietnamese government ends this term and threatens to shut down home travel websites that use it.
  The locals gather for tai chi and swim at My Khe beach in Da Nang, Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, Americans call this beach China.

Many locals also do not take kindly to it.

On a TripAdvisor website, a Vietnamese user answers the question "where to find China Beach?"

"Do not have any Chinese beach in Vietnam!" It says, telling the asker if they want to find a beach in China, they have to go to China.

The mood was carried over to the beach in July morning.

"Don't call it that," says one local who asked not to be named when questioned about the dummy. This simply "encourages" Beijing's violation of Vietnam.

He acknowledges the effect of these maps, the museum up to a few kilometers up the beach, the Vietnamese government's unwavering position on the Parcels.

They are part of Vietnam, and in the end they have to come back somehow.

"We keep the peace today," he says. Tomorrow, Who Knows?

Dan Tham of CNN contributed to this report.

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