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December 8, 2022, 9:19 am

Expanding Johnson South Reef: What is China’s plot?

(11:07:46 AM 17/10/2014)
( - Former Deputy Minister of Defence, Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Rinh, confirmed that China’s construction activities on islands in Vietnam’s Truong Sa Archipelago (Spratly Islands) aim at military targets, laying the foundation for implementation of the "China dream".

China is turning Johnson South Reef into an artificial island. Photo: DSPL

China is building artificial islands in order to change the status quo of the Gac Ma (Johnson South) Reef and some areas in the Spratly Islands of Vietnam. What do you think about China’s latest moves?

Former Deputy Minister of Defence, Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Rinh: Johnson South is actually a reef of the Sinh Ton (Sin Cowe) Island in the Spratly Islands of Vietnam. This is a brown reef, surrounded by a white coral belt. Only a few stones float on the sea and most of the reef is underwater. The Johnson South Reef is over 3km southeast of Vietnam’s Co Lin (Collins) Reef and marks the southwestern tip of Sin Cowe Island. In 1988, China used force to illegally seize Johnson South Reef of Vietnam.

China’s declaration of improving the reef to serve people's lives is ridiculous because this is the new island, which is still under construction so it is it impossible to have civil activities there. According to satellite images, the building activities on the reef are on a large scale to form a floating island. In my opinion, the main goal of China still aims at military goals.

This is part of the long-term strategy: claiming Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands of China and laying the groundwork for the next steps, which is extremely dangerous to realize the "China Dream" and the U-shaped line claim.


Why does China choose Johnson South Reef to build a floating island and what threat will it pose?

Rinh: According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), countries cannot claim sovereignty over underwater reefs and "the reefs that do not sustain human settlements or do not have economic life will not have the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf." China’s new moves in the East Sea aim to turn the Johnson South Reef into an inhabited island to claim sovereignty.

On the other hand, the position of Johnson South Reef is very important for defense and military. If a military base is built there, it will control the entire military operations in the Spratly Islands of Vietnam. It is a threat to peace and security not only in the East Sea but also the entire Asia - Pacific.

I must stress that the illegal construction activities of China to change the status quo of islands in the East Sea are reckless and blatant violation to Vietnam's sovereignty, serious violations of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).


Many people believe that Johnson South Reef has a strategic location, the decisive role in the success or failure of the "Chinese dream" in the East Sea. Therefore, to achieve its ambitions, China will certainly find ways to make the illegal construction, despite the opposition of the world. What do you think?

Rinh: It’s correct. We must keep in mind that China's ambitions have been nurtured for a very long time. China deliberately renovates the reefs to realize its cow-tongue claims, although this claim does not meet any rule.

This is a long-term plot of China, and it will certainly find ways to implement it. Vietnam has sufficient evidence to prove its ownership of the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands so Vietnam needs to be patient to protect its interests.


Dr. Tran Cong Truc (former Head of the Government Frontier Committee): "Turning Johnson South Reef into an island is the strategic goal of China"

Firstly, it must be stressed that China's recent actions on the Johnson South Reef are not new acts of aggression. They are part of China’s long-term plan.

Previously, in 1988, China forcibly occupied six shoals and reefs in the northwest of the Spratly Islands. After that it continuously deployed activities to turn sunken reefs into floating islands, turning the area into a new bridge, far to the south to prepare a stronger act of turning the "U-shaped line" claims into reality.

This position is very important and very close to the coast and continental shelf of Vietnam, near the area where Vietnam explores oil and gas and conducts its economic activities.

China builds artificial "floating islands" to expand its waters to form the overlapping waters in order to turn the waters of no dispute into disputed areas. In particular, China wants to expand all entities in the Spratly, Paracel Islands out to the most remote locations.


International military experts worry that China wants to turn the Johnson South Reef into an air force outpost on the East Sea. China can use this as the base for paramilitary operations such as imposing its unilateral fishing ban or prohibiting foreign vessels in the area. What do you think about this idea?

Truc: China's aim is to build airways, establish a military base and use this place as a bridge to control the entire southern area, directly threatening national security of Vietnam and other countries in the region.

In the past, China conducted a series of aggressive actions such as illegally deploying HD-981 oil rig in the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam and now they are promoting construction on Johnson South Reef. These actions are closely related to each other but in my opinion, the renovation and construction on Johnson South Reef is the main objective in the strategy to "monopolize the East Sea" of this country. This is very dangerous. Everyone knows about the important position of Johnson South Reef for defense and military. If there is a military base on the reef, it will control the entire military activities in the Spratly region of Vietnam.


Do you think that China’s plot can easily be realized? What should Vietnam and world opinion do to cope with this conspiracy?

Truc: I think history has proven that a lot of absurd claims and ambitions going against the will, aspirations and international law will sooner or later fail. We understand that, the determination and solidarity of the country and the strength of the truth and the right way can win any conspiracy that wants to trample justice. The fight for justice can be difficult but in the long term the unlawful act will not survive.

So far, Vietnam has always tried to maintain a stable situation. We object the illegal actions of China and do not accept the aggression of this country.

Ha Trang/Dan Tri

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