An Interview About The 1988 Johnson Reef Clash

Reply Wed 26 Mar, 2014 08:16 pm
On the 26th year commemoration of the Chinese occupation by force in 1988 the Johnson Reef in the Spratly Islands under Vietnam’s administration, International Communication Center would like to introduce the interview with Professor Ahn Kyong Hwan, Director of the International Relations Institute of the Chosun University, Korea.


Rpt: It has been 26 years since the 1988 skirmish at Johnson Reef of Vietnam broke out. As a scholar doing research on Vietnam for years, can you share your viewpoint on this sea battle?

The workshop on sovereignty disputes in the Southeast Asian sea and Korean sea was hold on Octorber 23, 2012 at the Language Education Institute of the Chosun University, Gwangju city, Korea, being the first scientific seminar in Korea about Spratly and Paracel Archipelagos of Vietnam. Workshop’s attendants include profound scholars in Asian studies, history and maritime laws from Chosun University, Korean Institute of Northeast Asian studies, Korean Dokdo Research Institute, Institute of Southeast Asian studies, National University of Vietnam. With regards to the 1988 Johnson Reef skirmish, Vietnamese would not forget the history, and they need to firmly safeguard their national sovereignty. China must stop actions that breach international laws and regulations.

Rpt: From perspective of an advocate of resolving the Southeast Asian sea disputes through peaceful negotiations in accordance with international laws, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), how do you assess Chinese use of force in the Johnson Reef in 1988?

I am not surprised by China’s use of force in the 1988 Johnson Reef event. China obviously ignored the UNCLOS. I insist that disputes in the Southeast Asian sea should be resolved in accordance with international laws, especially the 1982 UNCLOS.
Rpt: In early 2014, international community are deeply concerned about China’s calculations and audacious actions in the Southeast Asian sea. Do you think those actions of China are signals of possible clashes like the Spratly skirmish in 1988?

Chinese provocations in regional sea over the past time are dangerous but would not signal a confrontation like the Johnson Reef event. The broader significance lies in the will of Chinese leaders to maintain peace and stability in the region.

Rpt: Which attitudes and actions should China adopt towards ASEAN’s ongoing efforts to build the Code of Conducts (COC) in the Southeast Asian sea?

Casting back to history, we can assume that what China always concerns the most is its national interests. I hope that in the near future, China will be more responsible to the maintenance of regional peace, respecting international laws and the 1982 UNCLOS.

Rpt: Given Vietnam’s geological proximity and a history full of ups and downs with China, what Vietnam can do to secure its marine sovereignty while enhancing peaceful partnership with China?

That is a tough question. Korea is also in close proximity to China, and also has an uneasy history with China. Korea has been trying to solve the disputes with China through peaceful negotiations on the basis of international laws. I think Vietnam should hold more conferences on Vietnam’s Spartly and Paracel Archipelagos at home and abroad.

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