Historian Duong Trung Quoc said that historical evidence of Viet Nam’s sovereignty over sea and islands dates back a long time ago, in both old maps and historical records.
Quoc said the Chinese map made in 1904 reflected the perception of the Chinese Qing dynasty of its territory. The map is a kind of language, a specific tool showing the perception of territory. It is also an antique, so it has historical value.
When did the historical evidence of Viet Nam’s sovereignty at sea appear?
The Chinese claimed sovereignty over the sea very late while Viet Nam’s evidence of sovereignty occurred a long time before. In terms of cartography, the 1904 Chinese map only depicts its territory as far as Hainan Island, not mentioning the East Sea, Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagoes.
Meanwhile, at least from 1834, we had Dai Nam nhat thong toan do (the Complete Map of the Unified Dai Nam) of Minh Mang’s King which depicts clearly Van Ly Truong Sa on the East Sea.
This is an evidence for us to debate with China. We also have many other historical evidences to show our sovereignty. The map is just one tool.
Nguyen Dinh Dau had a collection of maps on this issue and he gave them to the Vietnamese State. Responsible offices also own valuable collections. We should promote citizens’ awareness so that they contribute more, to the scientific basis of the sovereignty claim.
However, marine issues are very complicated, the terrain at sea is also different from that on the mainland. Therefore, one extremely important clue is international commitments and treaties on the Law on the Seas. In disputed areas, it is necessary to follow regional common commitments like the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the East Sea.
From the historical point of view, besides maps, what historical evidence should we use to affirm the country’s sovereignty?
Evidence on sovereignty has many elements. The historical evidence needs to be respected first. History shows that Viet Nam has exercised its sovereignty for a long time. The rule is to take action to exercise sovereignty.
For example, Nguyen Lords sent their fleets to Hoang Sa every year. These activities were recorded in not only Viet Nam’s history but also in some foreign documents.
That was the action proving we exercised the sovereignty over these archipelagoes. In colonial times, French people demonstrated the sovereignty by building a lighthouse system, meteorological works and wireless works on islands.
Under King Gia Long’s reign, we planted sovereign markers on Hoang Sa archipelago. These elements manifested that we claimed our sovereignty before others.
We are determined to defend the sovereignty because it is a sacred issue. However, it is necessary to have a suitable solution and settle harmoniously the relations based on the countries’ common interests.
One of the wise ways in sovereignty protection is to pay attention to the common interests. We should pay attention to both the common interests and the country’s own interests.
We should not only talk of sovereignty but also consider the long term goal of harmony development on marine economy. Therefore, the Law on the Seas not only holds legal meaning on sovereignty but also is a legal corridor to develop the marine economy./.