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STRATFOR Global Intelligence HAS AN UNUSUAL TALE TO TELL. CHINA ONCE MADE AN ISLAND TERRITORIAL CONCESSION TO VIETNAM. NOW THE DRAGON IS TOUTING THAT FACT AS A SHOW OF "REASONABLENESS" TO ITS NEIGHBORS WHILE THREATENING TO TAKE IT BACK.
STRATFOR is a private subscription based news and business intelligence service. However the link above the headline will take you to a site where you may down load for free an article by Stratfor that is way out ahead of the national media, the kind of "open source intelligence" you can only get by reading Chinese media in Mandarin on a daily basis. The article is about Bach Long Vi Island, the largest inhabited island in the disputed Paracel chain .http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracel_Islands Below is a chart and hyperlink from Wikipedia that will help you locate and understand the island. The STRATROR article describes the importance of the island's history since 1957 and especially since 2000 into this week's recent Dragon pronouncements
In ancient times Vietnam claimed the islands and attributed Vietnam's independence from China to possession of this island and other islands of the Paracel chain as a sort of outer barrier to Chinese invasion routes by sea. Never were the islands permanently inhabited since none including Bach Long Vi have any useful sources of fresh water. In more modern time the island has changed hands back and forth between China and Vietnam and even Japan during WWII. The island was wrested from the Imperial Japanese in WWII by the army of China and the island administered by China into the 1950s. In 1957 the communist Vietnamese were at war with the Republic of South Vietnam, France has withdrawn from the country and the United States while supporting South Vietnam had yet to place troops in the south. In 1957 China created an aid package for North Vietnam that included the formal transfer of sovereignty over Bach Long Vi Island. North Vietnam almost immediately began establishing a community of commercial fishing and fish farming enterprises on the island , despite the lack of natural fresh water supplies that quickly grew to about 93 persons. That community is still functional and somewhat larger today. The government of China and the people gave little thought to the transfer of what was once thought to be a useless rock at the time.
Up until now China has continued to respect the sovereignty of Vietnam to this ceded island despite actual shooting incidents between China and Vietnam over other islands in 1988. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy2ZrFphSmc . Recently China has begun to discuss this island and its transfer in its semi government owned media provoking some public reaction unhappy with the government transferring ceding territory. The government appears to be touting this concession as "evidence" of China's "reasonableness" to neighboring nations encouraging them to submit to bilateral negotiations vice UN supervised arbitration or multilateral negotiations. The analyst of STRATFOR are concerned that China may also be bringing up this more than 50 year old concession now because it intends to take the island back by force as a demonstration to Vietnam of the types of penalties that will be extracted from nations who are "unreasonable" in ceding territory to China such as the Spratlys Islands claimed in part by both Vietnam and the Philippines.
The U.S. has no formal obligations to Vietnam and indeed Vietnam is in dispute with U.S. ally the Philippines over the Spratly islands so it is unlikely that the U.S. would do much more than protest a Chinese retaking of Bach Long Vi. such a retaking would probably be violently resisted by the Vietnamese but would result in a slaughter. The Chinese would then use it as an example of U.S. lack of interest in the area and inability to defend "friends" as a scare tactic for the cession of territory from its neighbors including Japan and the Philippines.
Down load this rare free non subscriber STARTFOR article and check out the links in this post so that when this island finally draws attention from the National media you won't be reliant on their usual "infotainment" for your understanding of what's going on.