Vietnamese authorities on Tuesday introduced a world atlas published in 1827 in Belgium as conclusive evidence of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands.
The atlas, drawn by Belgian geographer Philippe Vandermaelen, depicts Vietnam in four maps including the “Partie de la Cochichine”, which clearly includes the Hoang Sa islands. Cochinchine was the name of southern Vietnam region at that time.
Vandermaelen (1795-1869) published the six-volume Atlas Universel in Brussels in 1827. The atlas is well-known for its unique design in which every page is drawn at the same scale.
Professor Nguyen Quang Ngoc from Hanoi National University, vice chairman of the Vietnam Historical Science Association, discovered the atlas at a vintage bookstore in Belgium.
With financial support from Ngo Chi Dung, the director of ECO Pharmaceuticals Company, Ngoc visited libraries in France and Belgium and located five other copies of the atlas.
Dung bought the atles, which Ngoc said is the original version, from the Belgian bookstore and gave them to the Ministry of Information and Communications.
The “Partie de la Cochichine” map features a very high level of scientific accuracy, according to Professor Ngoc. The Paracels were drawn in detail and the map features an introduction about the geography, politics, minerals and statistics about the Empire of An Nam (the former name of Vietnam).
He said the atlas also includes the "Partie de la Chine" map which identifies Hainan Island as China's southernmost point.
No known map indicates China's southernmost territory extends beyond the 18th latitude, while the Paracels stretch from the 16th latitude to the 17th latitude.
"China has no sovereignty over the Paracels," said Ngoc. "This world atlas in general and the “Partie de la Cochinchine” map in particular should be considered priceless documents and convincing evidence of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Paracels."
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