Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Nguyen van Canh
15 November 2009

Bien Dong or The Eastern Sea

Historically, Bien Dong (the Eastern Sea, also called the South China Sea outside of Vietnam) has been since its nationhood the territorial waters of Vietnam, and is now bursting into a dispute for sovereignty among the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam. The Eastern Sea has appeared an important maritime world corner owing to its commercial activities with sea vessels transporting merchandises and raw materials to and from other continents. Consequently, it has become a source of common interests benefited by countries in Europe, North America, and South East Asia. Since the Eastern Sea may potentially turn out to be an economic exploitation of fishery and minerals, it has become a concern of security to a number of countries in the world.

The Eastern Sea is our national heritage. We now have a question to raise: What has built up the dispute, the battle with one another for ownership? In April 1995, the Philippines gave a warning to the People's Republic of China (PRC) about constructing structures and hoisting their national flag on the Mischiefs claimed by the Philippines. China's denial was followed right afterwards by saying that those installations were made available for fishermen to use as temporary shelters when working in the area. Finally, all those installations were demolished by the Philippine naval forces. Such was the most recent encroachment by the PRC in their longtime scheme of transgression at the Eastern Sea inside the territorial waters of Vietnam.

Chinese encroachment on the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago began in 1956 at the time South Vietnam was just in the middle of the building of her Armed Forces, after the departure of the French armed forces (after the Geneva Agreement to partition temporarily Vietnam into North and South). Taking advantage of a vacuum of power, China at this time deployed their troops out to attack and occupy the Tuyen Duc (Amphitrite) cluster in the eastern part of Paracels. In 1974, at the time of the withdrawal of US armed forces from South Vietnam, when another vacuum of power existed, Chinese troops again attacked and took control of the Nguyet Thiem (Crescent) cluster in the West. This incident has made it known that since then the PRC has got control of the whole archipelago. This act of aggression has been revealed by the very Chinese press when reporting a comment of the then Soviet authorities on the Moscow radio that the Paracel incident committed by the
People's Republic of China has met with an extreme adverse response by the world judgment. The PRC's newly published map has also disclosed her scheme of aggression.

Invasion of Spratly or China's activities to assert her sovereignty over the Eastern Sea:

In March 1988, the PRC's naval forces attacked and occupied islands in the southern part of the Spratly archipelago. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam underwent a heavy toll: two boats were sunk, three sailors were killed, 74 were captivated, and soldiers were reported missing. Chinese attacks continued now and then to take one after another; gradually 8 islands were under Chinese control. The last attack was launched in July 1992 to occupy Da Lac ( Nan Xun) reef. Then, the Chinese used a trawler supported by naval ships carrying a boundary marker and putting it up on the reef so as to substantiate their sovereignty over the Spratly archipelago. As of to day, 15 of them have been in China's possession.

In 1983, the PRC reprinted a re-marked map accompanied by an announcement to assert her sovereignty over the central area of the Eastern Sea. Again another newly redrawn map was published in June 2006 the boundary of which got close to the coastline of the Philippines in the East, to that of Vietnam in the West, and to that of Malaysia
in the South. In Feb. 1992, the

Map redrawn and published in June 2006
PRC National Assembly promulgated a law announcing her sovereignty over the area of the Eastern Sea, and stating that any warships, or vessels on scientific survey mission navigating through this region must have permission of the PRC, or they would be sunk.

Three months later in the same year, the PRC conceded to the Crestone Corporation at Denver, Colorado, USA a contract for oil exploration at the maritime area of 25,000 square kilometers, west of the Paracel archipelago, and the PRC's Navy promised military forces would be used if needed to protect the Crestone's personnel while working in the area. This conceded surface had been accorded earlier for oil exploration to the French Total Company by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This Company had dropped the contract after its unsuccessful exploration.

In August 1992, one Chinese vessel on oil survey mission intruded the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, 112 kilometers far from the seaport of Ba Lat, Vietnam, and another vessel on seismic study tour penetrated deep into the waters near the Haiphong seaport, just 70 nautical miles from the Thai Binh province. These two vessels have gone beyond the maritime demarcation line determined by the Convention 1887 between France and the then China. Together with these aggressive acts, the most recent incident on the Mischiefs of the Philippines has demonstrated the PRC's ambition to become a hegemonic country in the region.

In July 2007, China 's naval ships sunk Vietnamese fishermen's wooden boats near Spratly island, killing one of them.

Every year, she conducted military exercises in the Paracels area forbidding Vietnamese fishermen to come to the area. Last summer, from May 16 to August 1, (2009), an official announcement made it known that an area north of 15th parallel is an absolutely restricted part of the sea under the pretext of protection of maritime resources. Violations could not be tolerated.
To enforce the announcement, on June 16, 2009
Minute as evidence of penalty
Two Vietnamese fishing boats were captured by China's naval forces in the Paracels. The boats belonged to fishermen from Quang Ngai Province with 12 fishermen on board each. While they were fishing in an area near Lincoln Island, a Chinese naval vessel ( registration number 309) suddenly appeared and got close to them. Chinese military personnel jumped down to their wooden boats, tied them to their ship, towing them to Woody Island. The next day, the third was taken and also brought to Woody. On June 21, all three captains of the boats were to sign in a minute in Chinese stipulating that they shall pay a penalty of US $31,000 for encroachment on the Chinese waters. On June 25, 25 fishermen were released with two boats with a message that within ten days the penalty be paid in full and the other fishermen with their boat will be released.

On September 26, 09, 17 fishing boats with 200 fishermen were operating in the Paracels area. In the evening, being informed that a strong storm was about to sweep the region, they rushed in Robert Island for protection. Coming close to the shore, the first two boats were fired at by

Duong van Thoshows evidence demanding ransom by China's government
Chinese naval forces. They had to back out. All others dared not get in closer, but anchored at the open sea while ships from Japan, Hong kong , China were allowed to move in safely. The next day, in the afternoon, winds were intensified and high waves came in. Fearing that they would be washed away, all of them rushed in while raising white flags with a hope that some could survive, even others would be killed by Chinese military troops. Finally they were safe in the port and stayed there for three days and nights. On September 30, the sea was calm. While they were about to sail out, some dozen Chinese troops appeared at the mouth of the port, some with rifles in their hands, others with hammers. They jumped in each of the 17 boats.
Le Du and his son
In a boat owned by Duong van Tho, Chinese troops points AK rifles to him and members of his

crew. Some of them kneeled down, with hands raised up. Others begged for mercy. On this boat, no one was beaten, probably because an officer was present. However, all belongings were hastily taken away, including communication equipment, a
Wounded fishermen receiving medical care
ton of fish. As for a GPS, Tho asked for having it back . Without it, he could not find the direction to go at the open sea.. However, he was refused to get it back..
In another boat owned by Le Du, Le Du and his son, both were seriously beaten. They were asked to tell where cell phones, other equipments were hidden. Being tortured hard, his son could not stand and showed that the cell phone was hidden in a rice pot. He was seriously beaten for having told lies while other troops conducted search for other belongings.
The faces of Le Du and his son were swollen and. disfigured and the son 's eyes were bleeding. All belongings were taken away.

Briefly, all 17 boats were robbed including foods. Some fishermen became unconscious due to brutal beatings and others were seriously injured.

Remains of a fisherman killed by Chinese troops carried home in a bamboo basket

-On May 19, 09, a "strange ship" sunk Nguyên thanh Thu's boat ( Registration Number Qng- 95348) in Paracels. All 26 fishermen were forcibly dropped to the sea and the ship left the scene without offer of any help. The victims grasped floats or other things to stay floating. Luckily, fishing boats operating nearby happened to know it and came to rescue.
- On July 15, 09 another "strange ship" hit a Vietnamese boat ( Registration number Qng-2203) owned by a fisherman of Quang Ngai, also in Paracels, then left. Other fishing boats came to rescue. All 9 members of the crew were saved, however, 7 of them were wounded..

On January 8, 2005, three Chinese naval vessels rounded up Vietnamese fishing wooden boats in an area west of the boundary fixed by the 2000 treaty. 9 were killed and all others were captured and brought to Hainan island for fishing in an "authorized area". The spot of what happened was 12 km west of point no 14 of the map attached to the treaty. This means that the area belongs to Vietnam.


1 – Before 1975, the PRC's military occupation of Paracels was composed of two phases: The first attack on Paracels was launched in 1956. The incident took place when Ho Chi Minh controlled North Vietnam following the 1954 Geneva Agreement that temporarily divided the country into North and South. No action by Ho chi Minh was taken against the Chinese aggression including a single statement to oppose it. Ho Chi Minh was practically submissive in granting the archipelago to the PRC. This act was also shown later in Prime Minister Pham Van Dong's official note on September 14, 1958 to the PRC's Prime Minister Chou en Lai. The PRC's second attack was made on Paracel in 1974 right after the withdrawal of US armed forces from South Vietnam. The Republic of Vietnam's naval forces was deployed out to strongly and heroically resist the Chinese invaders. The battles were fierce and intense. A Chinese destroyer was sunk, another got seriously hurt. A
ship of the Naval forces of the Republic was sunk. Some died with the ship, and some 50 troops were captured by the Chinese. It was a surprise that the Chinese invasion met with strong protest from Russia against the Chinese act of aggression toward a hegemonic ambition, while North Vietnam kept completely quiet.

2 – 1975- 1991
During the years after Hanoi took over South Vietnam, the PRC's aggression continued to move further south into the Eastern Sea. It was in 1988 Hanoi reacted for the first time in naval battles against Chinese attacks on the islands in Spratlys, but finally several islands were lost to China.

Why Hanoi's reaction changed from "submissive" in the past to now "against" the Chinese attacks? We noticed that an agreement of mutual assistance and cooperation was signed by USSR and Vietnam in 1979. Le Duan the then CPV Secretary-general signed this agreement in which there was a mention saying the two countries will consult each other when one country is invaded. This may translate that the question of security of the two countries also lay in this agreement. And the Socialist Republic of Vietnam would be protected in case of invasion by PRC. One month later, with an army of 135,000 soldiers Vietnam launched an attack on Kampuchea. Russian ships carried Vietnamese troops and military materials to Kampuchea. War costs were provided by the USSR. Vietnam in this period took side with the Russians to stop the Chinese power expansion in the region, and to promote Russian influence in South Eastern Asia and all the way as far as to the Indian
Ocean, using Cam Ranh Bay as a starting point.
In 1988, Russia reduced assistance, economic and military as well to Hanoi, i.e. Russia no longer intended to provide sponsorship to Hanoi, China began to take military actions in area south of Spratly. As a consequence, Russia just stood still, watching the Chinese aggression.
The last of the eight islands was taken in July 1992.

3- After 1991:
In September 1990, CPV Secretary General Nguyên van Linh, Premier Do Muoi and CPV Central Committee Advisor secretly came to China and met with CPC leaders in Cheng Du to ask for re-establishment of diplomatic relationships. It was there the CPV leaders made concessions, including transfer of a part of the territory in Northern border (1999), 11,000 square kilometers in the Tonkin Bay (2000) and the Eastern Sea in exchange for the CPC's support for maintaining socialism in Vietnam.

Regarding territorial concessions including the Eastern Sea, CPV Secretary General Do Muoi with a support of Chief of State Le duc Anh, No 2 person in the Politburo in June 1992 Central Executive Committee's meeting stated that "socialism is a great interest of the party, and land and sea issues are of no significance. We need to sacrifice minor things in exchange for bigger ones."
For the past few years, the Communist Party of Vietnam has fully exercised its authority to suppress any opposition, including any voice against China's invasion of the Eastern Sea. Even some young people who wore 'blue' or 'green' T-shirts have been imprisoned: "Blue" represents the color of sea, implying that it is China that is invading and occupying Vietnam's Eastern Sea; "Green" means the color of tree, representing the plateau of Central Vietnam where Premier Nguyên tan Dung and the CPV have made concessions of a large area to the CPC to exploit bauxite to produce aluminum. It is in this area where CPC has been implanting some 20,000 Chinese workers and they will be members of one of many Chinese 5th columns in Vietnam to take over Vietnam in the future.
On September, 30, 2009, the "Electronic News", an official medium of the CPV Central Committee translated and printed an article from the CPC "The World" covering a Chinese military Exercise that took place on August 18, right in the area of the Fiery Cross of Spratlys where Chinese have built at least 5 fortified structures for their troops to protect the southern part of the region. The "Electronic News" is a medium run by Dao Duy Quat, General Editor, a 2nd official in command channel of the Party Central Committee Agitprop. & Education Department. In so doing, the CPV medium becomes a mouthpiece of the CPC in Vietnam and tacitly recognizes China's sovereignty over Spratlys.
And also, it is no surprise that the killings and beatings of Vietnamese fishermen from June to September 2009 by Chinese Naval units have not met with any reactions from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The Chinese scheme of expansion has been carefully calculated and implemented during the past sixty years.


Modernization of the Chinese naval forces was one among the Four-Modernization Program that Deng Xiaoping introduced in 1978. In 1991, the PRC bought from Russia 24 SU-27 bombers and 4 transport aircrafts. From the Tiananmen Square incident to 1991 China has spent two billion US dollars to modernize their armed forces. Budget for national defense will increase by 10% every year as it has been reported in the years to come. It had been reported that a negotiation between the PRC and Ukraine was made for a purchase of a carrier, Tbilisi /60,000 tons or Varyag / 67,000 tons. Instead, China bought 4 wrecked carriers from USSR, Ukraine, Australia and has been turning them into carriers.
One of them will come into existence in 2010. The Varyag of this kind can carry 18 SU-27 or 25 Migs-25. China has bought from Iran a technology for fueling in the air so as to widen the flight range of aircrafts from the Eastern Sea as far as to Malaysia. For this purpose a modification to the aircraft H-6 has been completed.

Fig 1.A wrecked carrier

Fig 2. Carrier of Chinese style (?)

Figure 3.Varyag aircraft carrier

Figure 4. Varyag is equivalent to Russian Kuznetsov


The PRC Navy now ranks first in military power in the region with 300,000 soldiers, 900 battle ships, 100 submarines, and 1000 air fighters. Their modernization of naval forces aims at a control of the whole maritime surface in the region. General Zhang Xusan, Deputy to the Commander-in Chief was reported as saying on the China Daily (April 7, 1992) that "our naval forces now are to back up the economic development in the region comprising all the disputed islands of the Spratly chain." Vice Admiral Zhang Lianzhong, commander of the Chinese Naval Forces at the same time made it known on the China News Services that "the Communist Party of China Military Council has put out an order that their naval forces be ready to protect their territorial waters and the neighboring areas; as a consequence, with the economic exploitation at the deep sea, the situation would become more complicated and the struggle to control the sea would become more severe."
Together with their aggressive scheme at the Eastern Sea inside the territorial waters of Vietnam, the statements of these Chinese generals have confirmed their ambition of dominance over the region. This is the root of the present dispute in the region.


On the Phu Lam (Woody) island in the Paracels a new runway ( expanded from 1 km to 2.600 km), fresh water reservoirs, and barracks for housing soldiers have been constructed. It has been reported that a thousand soldiers are at present stationed on this island. Paracels is now an advance Chinese naval post to move South.

Military headquarter on Duncan island, Paracels

Military installations, including barracks on Woody, Paracels

Missiles and laser weapons depots on Rock island, Paracels

Barracks on Pattle island, Paracels.


-Top of the triangle: Secret Nuclear Naval base in Hainan (Sanya base) with 3 piers for 6 aircraft carriers to activate 2 Blue Water Fleets, a 800 m pier has been completed, and with a hub large enough to host 20 094 nuclear subs. China has 5 of them available. Within the next five years, she will have 5 others. Each is equipped with 12 10,000 km-range multi-headed nuclear missiles. By its side, military installations have been built on Paracels for the purpose of support
-Point ( point A) on the left of the base of the triangle is the Fiery Cross Reef: Five armed concrete buildings have been built on the reef.
-Point (B) on the right of the base of the triangle is the Mischiefs: Four concrete armed concrete buildings have also emerged from the water.

The Secret Naval Base or Sanya Base in Hainan

094 Sub equipped with 6 nuclear missiles on each side.

Song-class sub (?) run by German- made engines that operates quietly under the water and is equipped with 1000 km missiles. US satellites can't find it out while it moves under the water.

Point A: The Fiery Cross:


Facility for Supplies

Plaform (96m x 116 m) for helicopters use in the far corner. It could be used as a pad to launch missiles to shoot down satellites that guide enemy carriers.

Point B: The Mischiefs

Headquarters and logistic facilities.

Satellite pictures of fortified structures constructed on such other reefs as Chigua, Johnson, Kennan, South East Cay are not included. These reefs lie inside the triangle.

The purpose of Naval forces deployment is "to protect the territorial waters" claimed by China and also "to back up the economic development" as above stated. However, her ambition does not stop there. She intends to expand China territory to South East Asia as proposed by Mao Tse Tung in 1954. Before reaching that goal, Vietnam must be annexed to China. The Communist party of Vietnam (CPV) is little by little working toward that goal. Also, in order to consolidate her power over the Eastern Sea, China need to control the East West sea lane that is the Malacca Strait.

In the long range, China intends to solve her population problem as Tri Hao Diên, Chinese Defense Minister explicitly stated in April 2005 that China territory is just large enough for 500 million people only; and her other 800 million people should be sent to Australia and America.

Briefly, Chinese hegemony is a threat to the region stability. So long as the Chinese Blue Sea Fleet has not been successfully activated, the region enjoys safety. However, when China's navy becomes strong enough, there will be serious problems for countries in the West. The sea lane through Malacca strait will be blocked by Chinese naval forces when they are able and dare to do so, especially with a support of the CPV playing a role of a puppet to carry the CPC's expansionist scheme. At that time, the world would be in trouble.


In conclusion, with the present policy of "entire and full cooperation" as put out by the communist party of China (CPC) over a decade ago, the communist party of Vietnam (CPV) has implemented it gradually, and carefully. The CPC has long planted its faithful Vietnamese agents to hold key positions in a leading body at the top level of the CPV apparatus. A super intelligence or super Secret Service agency, "the General Department 2" has been established to control and direct all state agencies, including Defense and Security Ministries, so as to maintain all activities in compliance with the CPC line of action. Moreover, since 1991, CPC leaders have had a say in appointing such important positions as Secretary General of the CPV; Chief of State and Prime Minister of SRV. As a consequence, concessions of territories on the Northern boundaries and transfer of 11,000 square kilometers of the Tonkin Bay to China in 1999 and 2000 were made easily
and smoothly, though at first secretly. SRV dared not have any reaction against the January 8, 2005 killing of 8 Vietnamese fishermen , sinking their wooden boats and capturing others by a Chinese naval patrol unit in an area located at the west side of the new demarcation line of the Tonkin Bay. Moreover, a Chinese patrol ship chased a Vietnamese fishing boat to the shore of Thanh Hoa province before leaving without incident. In July 2007, a Vietnamese fisherman was killed and several others were wounded near Spratly Island while a Vietnamese naval ship stood still watching the event. Recently, SRV police and military personnel were mobilized to suppress and suffocate all anti-2008 Olympic demonstrations after the spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs openly chided Hanoi for not preventing students of Hanoi and Saigon universities from so doing on Dec. 9 and 16, 2007…. These are few examples of what has happened since 1991.
The CPV has been working hard to serve the latter's interests, one of which of course is Chinese expansionism in South East Asia and SRV will be then an advance force in the front line to achieve this objective under the direction of Red China.

* An excerpt from Dr Nguyen Van Canh's book: Cong San Tren Dat Viet (Communism on Vietnam's Soil), Chapter XIII, Vol. II., Kien Quoc,( California) 2003, pp. 353-368 ; summarized and translated by Pham Loc. Revised Nov. 15, 09
* Dr. Nguyen van Canh, a former Visiting Scholar, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University ; Director, Center For Vietnam Studies, California.