Old Western maps confirm Vietnam's rights over Paracel, Spratly archipelagoes

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An Australian map in 2009 notes Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) in the East Sea in Vietnamese words.

After a 1904 China map, Vietnamese experts have found other drawings by Western experts from five centuries ago showing the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands in the East Sea as belonging to Vietnam instead of China.

Doctor Tran Duc Anh Son, deputy head of Da Nang Institute of Socio-Economic Research and Development Institute, said he has come across many Western maps while compiling a database on Vietnam's sovereignty over the islands.

Many of the 56 Western maps show the islands as Vietnamese territory, including one drawn during the second half of the 16th century by famous cartographer Gerardus Mercator and another by Stielers Handatlas in 1891, Son said in a Tien Phong report Friday.

A map of Vietnam made by French missionary Jean-Louis Taberd in 1838 used Vietnamese words to name the Hoang Sa Island. He wrote "Paracel seu Cát Vàng" meaning "Paracel or golden sand), Son said.

The priest also said in a report on the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1837 that the Paracel belongs to "Cochinchina", which means "Giao Chi near China." Giao Chi was the name of Vietnam at the time.

Other maps of China in The Encyclopaedia Britannica published in Edinburgh in 1876, or the Malay Archipelago published by the Times Atlas of England in 1896 did not show the Paracel or Spratly islands, Son said.

"All the maps limit China's territory to Hainan Island.

"The maps are confirmation by Western cartographers, marine traders, and geographical explorers of Vietnam's sovereignty over the islands," Son said.

Earlier, Vietnamese and Chinese language expert Mai Hong donned a China map published in 1904 to the national museum. The map was made by Chinese and Western scholars, under the direct orders of Chinese kings, also limiting the country's territory to Hainan.

Son's study used scanned versions of the original maps being kept at public libraries and private collections in Europe and the US.

Tran Thang, chairman of the Institute for Vietnamese Culture and Education in the US, has helped find several original maps and obtained permission to scan them.

Evidence aplenty

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Vietnam's Map and Measurement Department at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has provided many countries and map organizations in the world with its own maps, and in several cases have demanded them to fix errors about the sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Islands, a Tuoi Tre report notes.

Hoang Ngoc Lam, deputy head of the department, said the unit also joined a United Nations project called "Global Mapping" and Vietnam's map database has been uploaded on the website of the International Steering Committee for Global Mapping at www.iscgm.org.

Vietnam's data have been the second most downloaded after Japan's, according to the committee, showing that information about Vietnam's sovereignty has spread widely, Lam said.

The department is going to send regular updates as required by the committee, he added.

Lam said the department has helped persuade Australia, an active member of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names, to use Vietnamese words for Vietnam's locations including the two islands in a map in 2009 at www.icsm.gov.au/cgna/ungegn.html.

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