Timeline of Paracel (Hoang Sa) and Spratly (Truong Sa) Islands Dispute
Before French colonialism of Vietnam
Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen lived on the islands according to the season, but no one knows since what time.
Beginning of 17th century: The Nguyen Lord organized exploitation of the islands. The Hoang Sa Company and the Bac Hai Company had the task of stationing on the two archipelagos 8 months each year to exploit the resources: catch fish, collect valuable resources on the islands, collect goods from sunken vessels.
1686: Do Ba Cong prepared Thien Nam Tu Chi Lo Do Thu in Hong Duc Ban Do or Toan Tap An Nam Lo in the volume Thien Ha Ban Do. The map in Thien Nam Tu Chi Lo Do was drawn in contemporary style with very clear notation: “In the middle of the sea there is a long sandbank called Bai Cat Vang (Hoang Sa – Golden Sankbank) up to 400 miles…Each year at the end of winter the Nguyen Lord send 18 boats there to collect goods, the majority of which are gold, silver, money, guns, and bullets…” The map drawn in Toan Tay An Nam Lo contains a very clear notation of a place called Bai Cat Vang in the sea.
1753: In Le Quy Don’s volume Phu Bien Tap, it is told that there were 10 soldiers of the Bac Hai Company arriving on the Spratly Islands. 8 came on shore while 2 stayed on the boats to guard. Unexpectedly a storm arrived and the boats drifted to port Thanh Lan of China. The Chinese government investigated, and helped them to return home after finding out what happened.
1816: Emperor Gia Long formally took possession of the islands, ordered for the flying of flag and taking geographical measurements.
1835: Emperor Minh Mang ordered building of shrine, placing of a stone tablet, staking the island, and planting trees. The Hoang Sa and Bac Hai companies were given more responsibilities: exploitation, patrolling, collecting taxes from people on the island, and guarding and defending the two archipelagos. The two companies continued their activities until France arrived to Indochina.
Era of French colonialism
1884: Hue Pact resulted in colonial rule of Vietnam.
9/6/1885: The French – Thanh Thien Tan agreement was a friendship agreement, bringing an end to conflict between France and China.
26/6/1887: French – Thanh agreement determined land borders between North Vietnam and China.
1895 – 1896: La Bellona and Imeji Maru incident. The two ships La Bellona and Imeji Maru sunk near Hoang Sa, one sunk in 1895 and the other in 1896. Fishermen from Hainan collected bronze from these two sunken ships. The insurance companies of these two ship protested to China. Chinese government replied that they were not responsible, because Hoang Sa was not Chinese territory, and was also not An Nam’s.
1899: Indochinese governor Paul Doumer requested that France build a lighthouse but was not carried out because of the lack of fund.
1907: Japan took Pratas (Dong Sa) causing the government of South China to pay attention to the islands on the Eastern Sea (South China Sea).
5/1909: Chinese sent people to briefly survey the Hoang Sa archipelago before returning.
1920: Mitsui Busan Kaisha asked France for permission to exploit Hoang Sa. France denied the request.
1920: France controlled the islands and collected taxes there.
30/3/1921: South Chinese government declared that incorporate Hoang Sa (which they called Tay Sa) into Hainan island. Since that time, dispute arose between France and China about sovereignty over Hoang Sa. Dispute also arose since 1930 related to Truong Sa, which was French territory.
1925: Scientific explorations were made on the islands under the organization of Dr. Krempt, director of the Institute of Oceanography in Nha Trang.
1927: The ship De Lanessan docked on Truong Sa.
1930: Three French ships – La Malicieuse, L’Alerte, and L’Astrobale – took control of Truong Sa and flew the French flag on this archipelago.
1931: China ordered exploitation of bird fertilizer on Hoang Sa with the right being given to Anglo-Chinese Development Company. France protested.
1931-1932: France made continuous protests to China’s claim of sovereignty over Hoang Sa.
1932: France formally declared An Nam had sovereignty over Hoang Sa. France incorporated Hoang Sa into Thua Thien province.
1932: France built a meteorological station on Woody Island and another meteorological station on Pattle island.
1933: Truong Sa was incorporated into Ba Ria provinece. France proposed to China to take the matter to international court, but China refused.
1935: For the first time China published a map in which all 4 archipelagos on the Eastern Sea belonged to China.
1938: France set up an ownership tablet, built a lighthouse, meteorological station, and sent Vietnamese forces to protect Pattle.
30/3/1938: Emperor Bao Dai decreed that Hoang Sa be incorporated into Thua Thien province.
1939: Japan invaded the islands.
1946: France withdrew after losing in WWII. France returned to Pattle, but withdrew because of engaging in war with Vietnam.
1946: Using the Cairo and Postdam declarations as a front, 4 Chinese warships came to the islands, and soldiers came ashore for the reason of disarming Japanese soldiers.
7/1/1947: China declared that it has taken Hoang Sa, but in fact, it had only taken over Woody Island. France protested and sent French-Vietnamese forces to the island. The two sides negotiated in Paris. France proposed an international arbitator, but China refused.
17/1/1947: French warship Le Tonkinois of the French Navy came to Hoang Sa demanding that Chinese forces withdraw from the islands. When the request was refused, France ordered French and Vietnamese soldiers to take Pattle island.
4/1950: Chinese forces withdrew from Woody Island.
14/10/1951: France formally handed control of the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands over to Vietnam, headed by Bao Dai.
6/9/1951: At the San Francisco Conference, the Peace Agreement with Japan did not state clearly which country had sovereignty over the islands. The Vietnamese Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Tran Van Huu declared that Hoang Sa and Truong Sa were Vietnamese territories. None of the 51 countries participated protested. The USSR proposed that the two archipelagos be given to China, but it was rejected with 46 votes against, 3 votes for.
Post- French colonialism
4/1956: South Vietnam replaced France in controlling the islands. Only the two largest islands Phu Lam (Woody Is.) and Linh Con had been taken by China before South Vietnamese forces were able to send their troops to the islands, in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Accords.
Throughout this time, South Vietnam continued to assert Vietnamese sovereignty over the islands and carried out relevant administrative tasks vis-à-vis the archipelagos.
1/6/1956: Foreign Minister Vu Van Mau of S. Vietnam re-affirmed sovereignty of Vietnam over the two archipelagos.
4/9/1958: China declared to the world about its 12 nautical mile territorial waters from the mainland. The included map depicts clear borders, and also include Hoang Sa and Truong as belonging to China.
The Prime Minister of North Vietnam, Pham Van Dong, sent China a formal note declaring North Vietnam’s respect of this decision.
13/7/1961: South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem signed decree 174 NV which designates Hoang Sa as belonging to Quang Nam province.
19/1/1974: China invaded Hoang Sa, took control of the islands, after overcoming S. Vietnamese naval forces.
20/1/1974: The Temporary Revolutionary Government of S. Vietnam declared its opposition to this action by China.
14/2/1975: S. Vietnam released the White Papers detailing historical and legal evidence supporting Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.
2/7/1976: Vietnam became re-unified under the name of Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This government now had the responsibility to protect Vietnam’s rights to these islands and continued to do so through the years in its constitutions, declarations, and various other official documents.
1979, 1981, 1988: Vietnam released White Papers detailing evidence supporting Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.
9/12/1982: Vietnam placed Hoang Sa under the administrative governance of Quang Nam – Da Nang province.
6/11/1996: Vietnam transferred Hoang Sa from the old Quang Nam – Da Nang province, and placed it directlty under the city of Da Nang.
4/11/2002: China and ASEAN nations signed the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in Phnom Phenh, Kampuchia as a step forward in resolving conflicts in the Eastern Sea and maintain stability in the region.