Vietnamese experts rejected Chinese arguments about Pham Van Dong’s diplomatic note

China still uses a letter from Vietnamee Prime Minister Pham Van Dong to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1958, saying this is evidence that Vietnam gave up its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracels) and the Truong Sa (Spratlys) in the East Sea (South China Sea) to China.

So what is the latest assessment of Vietnamese experts?

On April 17, 2020, a diplomatic note from 1958 by the head of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam government to his Chinese counterpart was cited by Beijing in a note (CML/42/2020) to the United Nations, at the same time Beijing has allegations that Vietnam violated its sovereignty, invading China’s sea and islands in the East Sea.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai

Is this a Beijing escalation?

Commenting on the move, Associate Professor Hoang Ngoc Giao, former deputy director of the Vietnamese Government Border Committee, currently the director of the Institute of Policy, Law & Development, from Hanoi said:
First of all, this is a new step in China’s escalation of the Paracels and Spratlys, as well as their ambition to monopolize the South China Sea.”

Immediately the Chinese claim that Xisha (Paracels) and Nansha (Spratlys) belonged to China and asked Vietnam to withdraw and they declared that Vietnam had occupied the islands and features that Vietnam is legally holding, they say that these are the positions that Vietnam has invaded and illegally occupied.”

So I think it’s almost a declaration of war, and they say they will protect their interests in these waters, as well as on these islands, by all means, and consistently. After all, experts have commented that this is a threat to use force, not normal anymore.”

Concerning China’s announcement, citing Pham Van Dong in 1958, Mr. Hoang Ngoc Giao commented: “In my opinion, this is a story that may be on the agenda of a trial in an international tribunal over how legally this note is, to what extent.

If China dared to announce the reference to Pham Van Dong, would they dare to go to the international tribunal to debate and argue with Vietnam about the value of this note and, more broadly, to argue? to judge, decide on who is the true sovereignty in Paracels and Spratlys or not?

Because at that time the Vietnamese side of the petition had to be well prepared, personally as an expert, I concurred with the views that this dispatch and note by Pham Van Dong were not valuable legal rights.”

Because, based on the 1954 Geneva Agreement on the restoration of peace in Vietnam, dividing the country of Vietnam into two regions, it was precisely in that Agreement that the Paracels and Spratlys were to belong to the South of Vietnam. The two archipelagos are south of the 17th parallel, and so on under the control of the Republic of Vietnam.”

According to this legal expert, Pham Van Dong’s note in 1958 has no legal value on Spratlys and Paracels and can be disabled, but in exchange for the current state of the Southern Institute, there must be a major trade-off to change the concept and to view history with a collapsed state 45 years ago in South Vietnam, Mr. Giao continued:

However, so far, the government in North Vietnam and even the Vietnamese government now, in academia, especially academics of international law, for political purposes, have not been accepting the Republic of Vietnam as an independent subject of International Public Law.

And so this ended up being a ‘detrimental’ note, but now the government and the Vietnamese government are beginning to realize that if we deny the existence of a political government, of a righteous state, following international law, which is the Republic of Vietnam, then it is harmful to the story of the struggle to defend the sovereignty.”

So now, the official views of the leaders of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam certainly cannot deny the legitimate role of the Republic of Vietnam, that is, the former South Vietnam. before April 30, 1975 and this was only beneficial for the defense of sovereignty over the Paracels and it neutralized Pham Van Dong’s note in 1958.

Of course aside from the fact that Pham Van Dong’s note has no value in that he cannot recognize something that he does not have, here is another point that is a note, as many experts have said, it is at the Prime Minister level, not the national representative level as a head of state and has not been approved by Vietnam’s parliament.

Because issues of national territorial sovereignty always require the approval of the National Assembly, and therefore for its legal validity, it has no legal value there either.”

The third point is that his note reflects it as a political move with one another. As a communist, at that time China supported Vietnam to fight the US.”

Then it can be interpreted as a political statement, a political move between the two sides, but it cannot be regarded as legally valid at all,” Giao said.

The leaders of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Pham Van Dong, Truong Chinh and Le Duan are happy to hear that China has occupied the Paracels from the Republic of Vietnam after the naval battle occurred on January 19, 1974. Image source: CIA Newsletter published in Central Intelligence Buletin “Sea Battle of Paracel Islands, January 19, 1974”, p. 333

On April 23, answering the audience’s questionof an online commentary program of BBC News Vietnamese that asked the official Pham Van Dong 1958 to cause any legal difficulties for the struggle for sovereignty, from American George Mason University, Professor Nguyen Manh Hung, expert on international politics and diplomacy, said:

Actually, China is clinging to that and saying that in Vietnam has already recognized their terms.

But on the contrary we see some facts that show that Vietnam has changed relatively well. In the old days, when Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung was still PM of Vietnam, he also made it clear that the two archipelagos were under the control of the Republic of Vietnam government.”

Usually, the Vietnamese communist authorities call it ‘puppet government’ and have no value and no authority, but now Vietnam certifies it is, so it means saying that if it is administered by the Republic of Vietnam, Pham Van Dong’s note does not work by itself.

Because in the concept of transferring power from one government to another, the North government, when receiving the southern region, receives more products and assets, benefits and meanings.

Photo 5: Mr. Le Duc Tho, former head of the communist party’s Central Organization Committee, standing member of the party’s Politburo, was quoted by Colonel Bui Tin, with the saying after learning that China occupied Hoang Sa, he Le Duc Tho said: “Rest assured, Hoang Sa is in the hands of Chinese comrades rather than in the hands of the puppet of the US empire

If in the opinion of the government of the Republic of Vietnam, the North inherits only the South of the Republic, so they are not responsible, because there were no obligations then the North has no obligation.

Especially now in the UN, we see a clear text in January 1974, when that happened, the Secretary of State of the Republic of Vietnam Vuong Van Bac wrote a letter to then Secretary-General of the United Nations and asked to bring this issue to the Security Council and the Republic of Vietnam condemned China for invading Vietnam.”

So those documents are already in the UN and according to international law it is also true.

So there have been moves, but now we have not seen the continuation from when Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung said that sentence, then later we have not seen anything.”

From University of Maine, USA, Professor Ngo Vinh Long, historian and researcher on China commented:
Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, supporting the issue that is around 12 nautical miles from coastal lines or islands, but did not recognize China’s claims over Paracels and Spratlys.”

But like Professor Nguyen Manh Hung just said, this issue has nothing to do with the issue of Hoang Sa’s sovereignty of the Republic of Vietnam in the past.

Photo 6: The diplomatic note signed by Pham Van Dong was published in the People’s newspaper on Sept 22, 1958 – a document published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China on January 30, 1980 to prove China’s sovereignty over with the two archipelagos Paracels and Spratlys.

In addition, I also think that this is only a letter from a Prime Minister recognizing the 12 nautical miles at sea. It was
not authorized by the Vietnamese regime, including the National Assembly and the President, so China could not use that letter to say that Vietnam had ceded sovereignty in Hoang Sa for China

Dr. Vu Cao Phan, former vice president and general secretary of the Vietnam-China Friendship Association, a political researcher at Binh Duong University, stated:
Last year China came to Vanguard Bank mainly to hinder Vietnam’s oil and gas industry in the Sao Vang-Dai Nguyet well. They failed because in the end, Vietnam still managed to land on the rig there.”

In a new study titled ‘The South China Sea issue: Vietnam-China relations today, I wrote that it is important that despite all obstacles from China, Vietnam has successfully completed its mission service in this area.”

This year Vietnam continues to set the rig here, China knows so it will resolve to cause trouble.”
Therefore, my prediction is that the situation will be tense and Chinese activities (including stringing from sinking fishing vessels to other moves) will be a first strike.”

Thu Thuy from Hochiminh city – (Translated)