Hoang Sa Islands? Xisha Islands? Let’s settle it over a bowl of pho.
The Paracel Islands have been in the news over the past few weeks not because of their tropical beaches or iconic full moon parties. The flora and fauna of the islands is of little concern to either side. The dispute is over the rights to the potential oil reserves around the islands and control of the South China Sea waterway. In this ongoing dispute between Vietnam and China, China claims the uninhabited archipelago known to them as the Xisha Islands belongs to them while Vietnam claims that the Hoang Sa Islands is rightfully theirs.
There are serious implications in regards to the outcome of this dispute. If China maintains the globally unpopular position that the islands are theirs and the international community cannot arrange a compromise, they will tighten their grip as the world’s emerging superpower. The precedent set if their actions go unchecked and will mirror those of Putin who defied the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances and annexed Crimea as part of Russia. By all accounts, Putin’s appetite to restore Mother Russia remains unsatisfied as he has his eyes set on other parts of Ukraine and even Moldova. The same can be said about China, a country that has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan. These countries are more capable foes than Vietnam given their own militaries and U.S. backing making the outcome in the Paracel Islands ever more critical. Make no mistake, China is using the Paracel Island dispute as a test case of what they can do without international reprimand.
The natural culmination of this interesting tug of war ends with the professor’s peace accord. The complexities of the negotiation require both sides to come to the table and engage in a meaningful discussion. Such talks cannot commence on an empty stomach. Pho peace to prevail, I propose setting a meeting at the 7th best place in the world to get pho– Shanghai, China.