Vietnamese navy receive series of old sea maps

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Ancient sea map of Vietnam. Source: Viet Nam News 20150626

The Vietnamese navy is handed a collection of old maps that note its sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea for hundreds of years.

Ancient sea map of Vietnam. Source: Viet Nam News 20150626

Ancient sea map of Vietnam. Source: Viet Nam News 20150626

Navy receives maps of Hoang Sa, Truong Sa
Viet Nam News, 26 April 2015

The Ministry of Information and Communication has delivered a documentation collection, ‘Map Exhibition of Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) of Viet Nam – Historical and Legal Evidence,’ to the navy force.

The collection, which was handed over to the Command of Navy Zone 3, includes 132 maps and documents, of which 60 maps of Viet Nam, China, and some western countries published from the 16th century confirm Viet Nam’s sovereignty on the two archipelagos.

It also comprises 20 records of the royal Nguyen dynasty (1802-45); six written in Han (Chinese script) and 14 documents from the French colonial period, stating that Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) belong to Viet Nam.

Full story here.

Archaeology and China’s claims to the seas

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Philippine ship run aground on the Second Thomas Shoal. Source: Today 20150506

Underwater archaeologist Michael Flecker talks about the archaeology of the Spratley islands and how archaeology may help defuse arguments by China over the South China Sea.

Philippine ship run aground on the Second Thomas Shoal. Source: Today 20150506

Philippine ship run aground on the Second Thomas Shoal. Source: Today 20150506

Archaeology could wreck China’s sea claims
Today, 06 May 2015

No country has demonstrated that they have historical rights to the Spratlys, simply because it is, and always has been, Dangerous Ground, a place to avoid at all costs. China’s claim to a large chunk of the South China Sea on historical grounds does not seem to be indisputable.

But perhaps this is just as evident to China as it is to me. Perhaps, it is only a game that will have served its purpose once the islands have been created and the military facilities have been built and manned. Perhaps then China will happily participate in bilateral or even multilateral discussions, with the history card taken off the table.

Full story here.

Lecture: Shipwreck Finds in the Spratlys and The Implications on Territorial Claims

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Dr Michael Flecker will be speaking at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre later this month on the shipwrecks and territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Shipwreck Finds in the Spratlys: The Implications on Territorial Claims
Venue: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore
Date: 28 April 2015
Time: 3 – 4.30pm

Way back in 1993, the speaker had the good fortune to investigate some of the Vietnamese-occupied reefs in the Spratly Archipelago, the Dangerous Ground marked on maritime charts. The aim was to discover Chinese, Southeast Asian and European shipwrecks that struck the western-most reefs while sailing downwind on the northeast monsoon. Plenty of shipwrecks were found, but none contained the dreamt of piles of glistening celadon or blue-and-white porcelain.

New evidence of ancient maritime trade was anticipated. Unfortunately, the late 19th century does not qualify as ancient. Fortunately, a lack of discoveries can be as important as an abundance. Such is the case in the Spratly ‘Archipelago’, a group of reefs and islets in the middle of the South China Sea, claimed in whole or in part by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. Many islets and reefs are occupied, and several are now being reclaimed. The quest for oil and fish may have been the driving force in the past, but the current push is strategic.

China has been more forceful than most. Their nine-dashed line encompasses pretty much all of the South China Sea down to Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. While words have been ambiguous, actions have not. It would seem that virtually the entire sea and seabed are being claimed, along with the reefs and rocks. And this claim is ‘indisputable’, largely on historical grounds. What other grounds could there be when the closest reef lies nearly 500 nautical miles from Hainan?

This lecture delves into the archaeological evidence that may support, or counter, a historical claim. Texts are subject to interpretation and can take us only so far. Shipwreck hulls and cargoes can be definitively identified. They can be reasonably accurately dated. They can tell us who was there, and often why they were there. As far as voyaging throughout the South China Sea is concerned, the Southeast Asians, and later the Arabs, were active well before the Chinese ventured beyond their southern shores in the 11th or 12th century. Having achieved a degree of maritime prowess, did the Chinese have any reason to risk the Dangerous Ground in the distant past? Let’s see.

Registration required, information here.