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Cablegate: Gvn Stretches Historical Record to Enhance Claim for South

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DE RUEHHI #0493 1190831
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 280831Z APR 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7717
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4651
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7105
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HANOI 000493

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHSA PBTS SOCI VM
SUBJECT: GVN STRETCHES HISTORICAL RECORD TO ENHANCE CLAIM FOR SOUTH
CHINA SEA ISLANDS

1. Summary: A recent ceremony to honor past heroes in Vietnam's
fight for the Spratly and Paracel Islands received primetime
attention on national television, highlighting Vietnam's historical
claim to the islands. The ceremony was dedicated to the "tens of
thousands" of 19th century Nguyen Dynasty soldiers who gave their
lives in defense of the South China Sea islands. Some Vietnamese
historians report that actual military engagement by these troops
was considerably more modest in scope. By embellishing the
historical record, the GVN also used the event as a reminder to its
public about "past sacrifices" that were required in order to defend
its claim to these islands. End Summary.

Ceremony Dedicated to Fallen Heroes
-----------------------------------

2. On April 19-21, Ly Son island district in central Quang Ngai
Province held a traditional and religious ceremony to honor Nguyen
Dynasty (1802-1945) soldiers who fell in defense of the Paracel and
Spratly Islands. At a distance of about 135 miles, Ly Son is the
closest Vietnamese territory to the Paracels and was the home of
many of these Nguyen Dynasty soldiers. State-controlled Vietnam
Television's April 22 evening news program covered the event,
reporting that "tens of thousands of soldiers died fighting for the
territorial sovereignty of the East Sea." (Note: In Vietnam, the
South China Sea is called the East Sea.) In addition to national
television coverage, the annual ceremony was well attended by the
local population and government officials.

Do Not Forget Your Ancestors' Sacrifices
----------------------------------------

3. A local participant at the event, Nguyen Suong, said the
ceremony was dedicated to honoring the sacrifices of the troops who
did not return home from the sea. In addition to its traditional
and religious aspects, the ceremony was a reminder "for the next
generations of their forefathers' work to build the Fatherland."
MFA National Border Affairs Commission Vice Chairman Le Van Thinh,
who attended the ceremony, commented that the Commission pays
attention to such activities in the area of Vietnam's coastline.
According to Thinh, the ceremony is a way to "maintain and implement
Vietnam's sovereignty rights."

Actual Historical Record More Modest
------------------------------------

4. Professor Nguyen Van Nhat of Vietnam's Academy of Social
Sciences, History Institute confirmed that, while there were
Vietnamese troops patrolling the islands in the South China Sea
prior to the arrival of the French colonial regime, these troops did
not necessarily have to "fight" in order to defend the islands, but
in general they were there to protect the sovereignty of the
country. Other Vietnamese historians have also noted that the
Nguyen Dynasty troops guaranteed Vietnamese access to the islands'
natural resources. The casualties of these seafaring Ly Son troops
most likely numbered in the hundreds, not tens of thousands.

Comment
-------

5. In defending its interests in the South China Sea, the GVN is
trying to balance good bilateral relations with China with its need
to repeatedly assert the legitimacy of its territorial claim. Given
criticism by bloggers and anti-China demonstrators for reacting
weakly to Chinese aggressiveness, the GVN also needs to manage
public opinion. As this news report shows, the GVN uses every
opportunity to affirm its territorial claim to the rest of the world
and to raise public awareness of the islands at home, a pattern we
expect will continue.

MICHALAK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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