In a bold move, the Vietnam government has started asserting itself against the Chinese dominance in the South China Sea.

Hanoi commemorated (March 14) the 34th anniversary of a battle against the Chinese navy in the (Gac Ma reef/Johnson South reef) of the South China Sea (SCS), reported The Singapore Post.

The ceremony was officially attended by the Prime Minister, Pham Minh Chinh for the first time in history. Chinh was the first top Vietnamese leader to lead such a commemoration of the fallen soldiers in SCS. Johnson South is a reef in the Spratly Islands in the SCS.

It marks a new stand as for a long time, the Sino-Vietnam clash was not publicly discussed due to Chinese pressure. It is still not included in the educational curriculum. The Vietnamese state-controlled media tend to omit the word “China” and replace it with “foreign forces” while referring to the incidents, reported The Singapore Post.

Chinh visited the Memorial for the Johnson South Reef battle in the south-central of Khanh Hoa province (the administrative headquarters of Vietnam’s Spratly Islands) and paid tribute to the Vietnamese soldiers.

The Vietnamese PM also recorded his views in the visitors’ book and affirmed that “64 soldiers of the Vietnam People’s navy had heroically and selflessly defended the sacred sovereignty of the fatherland”.

It may be recalled that 64 Vietnamese soldiers were killed in the incident on March 14, 1988, and the reef in SCS was occupied by the Chinese navy. Earlier, the PM also visited and offered tribute to martyrs (Sino-Vietnam war 1979) at the Po Hen memorial site in Mong cai city, Quang Ninh province on January 26, 2022.

In addition, the government of Vietnam also took the unprecedented step of allowing print and electronic media to cover these events.
Further, Chinh also ordered the local government to develop the Spratlys into “an economic, cultural and social center” and assert its authority in the SCS, reported The Singapore Post.

Earlier, the Vietnamese state systematically silenced the commemoration of the war by censoring journalists and covering the topic vaguely in Vietnamese history textbooks.

The significant change in the present attitude of the Vietnam government indicates that the new dispensation aims to give a clear message of its maritime sovereignty and self-reliance.

China claims sovereignty over all of the Spratly Islands, whereas Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all have similar claims. Vietnam’s coastline bordering the South China Sea is over 3,000 km long and its geographic proximity to these waters stands in the way of China’s SCS ambitions and maritime expansionism. (ANI)