News / Asia

Vietnam Remembers Geneva Accords as Tensions With China Abate, for Now

World Bank President Jim Young Kim (front L) and Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang (front R) meet in front of a statue of late Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, July 17, 2014.
World Bank President Jim Young Kim (front L) and Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang (front R) meet in front of a statue of late Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, July 17, 2014.
Marianne Brown

Hundreds stood to sing Vietnam’s national anthem Friday morning during a ceremony in Hanoi to mark the peace agreement that brought an end to French colonial rule and partitioned the country.

The accords stated that elections would be held in 1956 to decide on a national government and in the meantime the country would be split in two - north and south - along the 17th parallel. However, the elections were never held and a decade later American troops arrived in Saigon to support the South in its war against the Communist North.

President Truong Tan Sang said the accords were an important milestone for national independence and unification, and provided lessons in "promoting the role of diplomacy, increasing dialogues and using peaceful measures to settle disputes in international relations in accordance with international law."

South China Sea

He said recent threats to national sovereignty in the South China Sea, known as the East Sea in Vietnam, pose a “considerable challenge” to national independence and added that lessons could be learned from the Geneva Accords.

In the last few months, Vietnam has been involved in a tense stand-off with China over an oil rig deployed in waters both countries claim as their own. The dispute is rooted in their claims to the Paracel islands, known as Hoang Sa in Vietnamese and Xisha in Chinese.

Part of Vietnam’s case for ownership of the archipelago, referenced in local media, is that the French considered the islands part of their colonial territory.

Professor Carl Thayer of the University of New South Wales in Australia said, "In 1955 it became the Republic of Vietnam as the result of elections and the Republic of Vietnam had jurisdiction over the Spratly and Paracel islands because they were below the 17th parallel. Between 1954 and 1956 the French vacated these islands and let the Republic of Vietnam put its military forces there."

Simmering issue

Some Vietnamese commentators claim that because China was present at the Geneva Accords, this meant they recognized Vietnamese sovereignty over the islands. But with no signed statement from China, Thayer said this claim is “a stretch”.

Tensions between the two countries relaxed a little Wednesday when China moved the $1-billion oil drilling platform to waters near Hainan island. China’s Foreign Ministry said the move was in accordance with commercial plans and not related to any outside factors.

Jennifer Richmond, China Director at U.S.-based global intelligence company Stratfor, said she thinks it is a matter of time before this issue surfaces again.

"You might see a rig coming and going, but you will continue to see these tactics, not only with Vietnam, but anyone else, the Philippines."

Many believe the South China Sea to be rich in oil and gas reserves, but Richmond believes there are other factors at work besides this.

"The issue of Vietnam is a tool that’s used by journalists politically in China to drum up nationalism. So does the average person really fret about Vietnam or think Vietnam is a threat? No. But the government can use this to push the national agenda, absolutely, and they do," she said.

Richmond said she has never seen China politically stronger. For this reason she said it is unlikely the territorial dispute in the South China Sea will abate any time soon.



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This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: William Li from: Canada
July 20, 2014 1:19 PM
Always support my motherland China!

South China Sea belongs to China!
In Response

by: remie from: canada
July 21, 2014 7:13 AM
Keep supporting , big deal . Still doesn't make China right. It actually makes you look bias, brainwash and naive

by: Thoi from: USA
July 20, 2014 12:50 AM
Right after war with France is over on 20 July 1954, Vietnam should rebuild, rehab, resource the whole country with North Vietnam worked together with China and Former Soviet Union and the World, South Vietnam should work with US and the world to rebuild Vietnam instead of War . . . VC did not choose easy way, but chosen Hard way for war from 1954 to 1975 to lead to results today with China threat to another War in weakness of VC caused by wrong ideas in 60 years 1954 - 2014
In Response

by: LiveFree from: US
July 21, 2014 4:55 AM
According to Geneva accord, VN unification election should be held on 1956. Yet, S.VN government, newly-established by President Ngo D. Diem, was so weak and not popular in politically-fragmented S.VN at the time, under advised from US advisors, decided to forgo it for fear of losing the election to communist party. N.VN felt being cheated and determined to unify the country by force.

by: Thoi from: USA
July 20, 2014 12:40 AM
If Chinese Communists, CC, worried too much about ENERGY SUPPLY to make insane moves they made in South pacific, then CC should know there is not enough resource of Energy to solve their Energy Supply and Demand problems, simply because there is not enough Energy Supply for everybody!
Because 300,000,000 (300 Millions) American used 25% Earth Energy, then 1,200,000,000 (1200 Millions) Chinese might used 3 times American Energy, it meant 75% Energy of the Earth, then total Energy Utilities for US - China is 100% of the Earth Energy, then there is nothing left for the rest of the Earth! Fortunately, China is not 75% Energy of the Earth yet! However, Chinese will get there eventually. I have written about this problem about 10 years ago, then exactly it is happening now. . .
THEORY OF EVERYTHING, TOE, is solution for China, because TOE will lead China to Sea of Particles, SOP, then SOP will lead China to Seas of Energy, then Chinese Communists can supply China with more Energy than it needed, they should find as soon as possible, taking over the South Pacific is not an answer and it is too much problems will fail Chinese Communists and bring it to collapse finally . . . . . . .

by: LiveFree from: US
July 19, 2014 1:42 AM
Beside of Geneva accord recognition of South VN having sovereignty on Paracel and Spratly island groups, Vietnam can produce document and map to show VN sovereignty of these island groups since 16th century. China has never been able to produce document and map that proved China's present on these island groups. China were aware of these island groups, but because they are too far away from China shore, China has never occupied them until South VN discovered oil in SCS in 1973. The next year, 1974, China surrounded and invaded Paracel islands in a short naval battle and have been expanding present in SCS ever since.

I agree with Ms. Jennifer Richmond that there are other issues more important than resources in SCS for China to risk negative perception of China. It's the trade route that carries 5 trillion USD of trade annually. By claiming ownership of this trade route, China can hold many countries in Asia hostage including Japan and an important leverage in dealing with USA on equal footing.

In Response

by: LiveFree from: US
July 21, 2014 5:05 AM
Jennifer, I am not so sure there are that much oil in SCS as rumor. VN has explored oil in her EEZ for the past 40 years and still not producing enough for the country's need of energy and remember major personal transportation in VN is scooters, not cars.

VN is still an energy-imported country today. Yes, I am surprised on this myself when I found out the fact.
In Response

by: Jennifer Godwin
July 20, 2014 2:58 AM
I disagree that the strategic location is the more important thing. Oil and arms are the two most lucrative trades that the powers that be had their eyes and their pockets had grown big on.

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