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The Battle of the Paracel Islands
Paracel Islands
was a military engagement between the naval forces of China
China
and South Vietnam
South Vietnam
in the Paracel Islands
Paracel Islands
on January 19, 1974. The battle was an attempt by the South Vietnamese navy to expel the Chinese navy from the vicinity. As a result of the battle, the PRC established de facto control over the Paracel Islands.

Contents

1 Background 2 Prelude 3 Balance of forces 4 Military engagement 5 Result

5.1 Vietnamese casualties 5.2 Chinese casualties 5.3 Aftermath

6 See also 7 Notes 8 References 9 Further reading 10 External links

Background[edit] The Paracel Islands, called Xisha Islands (西沙群島; Xīshā Qúndǎo) in Chinese and Hoang Sa Islands (Quần Đảo Hoàng Sa) in Vietnamese, lie in the South China
China
Sea approximately equidistant from the coastlines of the PRC and Vietnam
Vietnam
(200 nautical miles). With no native population, the archipelago’s ownership has been in dispute since the early 20th century. China
China
first asserted sovereignty in the modern sense to the South China
China
Sea’s islands when it formally objected to France’s efforts to incorporate them into French Indochina during the Sino-French War (1884–1885). Initially, France recognized Qing China's sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, in exchange for Chinese recognition of Vietnam
Vietnam
as a French territory. Chinese maps since then have consistently shown China’s claims, first as a solid and then as a dashed line. In 1932, one year after the Japanese Empire invaded northeast China, France formally claimed both the Paracel and Spratly Islands. China
China
and Japan both protested. In 1933, France seized the Paracels and Spratlys, announced their annexation, formally included them in French Indochina. They built several weather stations on them, but they did not disturb the numerous Chinese fishermen found there. In 1938 Japan took the islands from France, garrisoned them, and built a submarine base at Itu Aba
Itu Aba
(now Taiping / 太平) Island. In 1941, the Japanese Empire made the Paracel and Spratly islands part of Taiwan, then under its rule. In 1945, in accordance with the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations and with American help, the armed forces of the Republic of China government at Nanjing accepted the surrender of the Japanese garrisons in Taiwan, including the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Nanjing then declared both archipelagoes to be part of Guangdong Province. In 1946 it established garrisons on both Woody (now Yongxing / 永兴) Island in the Paracels and Taiping Island in the Spratlys. France promptly protested. The French tried but failed to dislodge Chinese nationalist troops from Yongxing Island (the only habitable island in the Paracels), but were able to establish a small camp on Pattle (now Shanhu / 珊瑚) Island in the southwestern part of the archipelago. In 1950, after the Chinese nationalists were driven from Hainan
Hainan
by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), they withdrew their garrisons in both the Paracels and Spratlys to Taiwan. In 1954 France ceased to be a factor when it accepted the independence of both South and North Vietnam
Vietnam
and withdrew from Indochina. In 1956 North Vietnam
North Vietnam
formally accepted that the Paracel and Spratly islands were historically Chinese. About the same time, the PLA reestablished a Chinese garrison on Yongxing Island in the Paracels, while the Republic of China
China
(Taipei) stationed troops on Taiping Island in the Spratlys. That same year, however, South Vietnam reopened the abandoned French camp on Shanhu Island and announced it had annexed the Paracel archipelago as well as the Spratlys. To focus on its war with the North, South Vietnam
South Vietnam
by 1966 had reduced its presence on the Paracels to only a single weather observation garrison on Shanhu Island. The PLA made no attempt to remove this force.[3] Prelude[edit] On January 16, 1974, six South Vietnamese Army officers and an American observer on the frigate Lý Thường Kiệt (HQ-16) were sent to the Paracels on an inspection tour. They discovered two Chinese “armored fishing trawlers” laying off Drummond Island to support a detachment of PLA troops who had occupied the island. Chinese soldiers were also observed around a bunker on nearby Duncan Island, with a landing ship moored on the beach and two additional Kronstadt-class submarine chasers in the vicinity. This was promptly reported to Saigon,[4][5] and several naval vessels were sent to confront the Chinese ships in the area. The South Vietnamese Navy frigate signaled the Chinese squadron to withdraw, and in return received the same demand. The rival forces shadowed each other overnight, but did not engage. On January 17, about 30 South Vietnamese commandos waded ashore unopposed on Robert Island and removed the Chinese flag they found flying. Later, both sides received reinforcements. The frigate Trần Khánh Dư (HQ-4) joined the Lý Thường Kiệt (HQ-16), while two PLA Navy minesweepers (#274 and #271) joined the Chinese. On January 18, the frigate Trần Bình Trọng (HQ-5) arrived carrying the commander of the South Vietnamese fleet, Colonel Hà Văn Ngạc. The corvette Nhật Tảo (HQ-10) also reached the islands, moving cautiously because it had only one functioning engine at the time. Balance of forces[edit] These four warships from the South Vietnam
South Vietnam
Navy would participate in the battle: the frigates, Trần Bình Trọng (HQ-05),[1] Lý Thường Kiệt (HQ-16),[2] and Trần Khánh Dư (HQ-04), [3], and the corvette Nhật Tảo (HQ-10).[4] A platoon of South Vietnamese naval commandos, an underwater demolition team, and a regular ARVN platoon were by now stationed on the islands. China
China
also had four warships present: the PLA Navy minesweepers # 271, #274, # 389 and # 396. These were old and small warships with an average length of 49 meters and width of 6 meters, and they had not been well-maintained. However, they were reinforced by two type 037 submarine chasers (# 281 and # 282) by the end of the battle. In addition, two PLA marine battalions and an unknown number of irregular militia had been landed on the islands. Although four ships were engaged on each side, the total displacements and weapons of the South Vietnamese ships were superior. The supporting and reinforcement forces of the PLA Navy did not take part in the battle. Military engagement[edit]

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In the early morning of January 19, 1974, South Vietnamese soldiers from the Trần Bình Trọng landed on Duncan Island and came under fire from Chinese troops. Three Vietnamese soldiers were killed and more were injured. Finding themselves outnumbered, the Vietnamese ground forces withdrew by landing craft, but their small fleet drew close to the Chinese warships in a tense standoff. At 10:24 a.m., the Vietnamese warships Lý Thường Kiệt and Nhật Tảo opened fire on the Chinese warships. The Trần Bình Trọng and Trần Khánh Dư then joined in. The sea battle lasted about 40 minutes, with vessels on both sides taking damage. The smaller Chinese warships managed to maneuver into the blind spots of the main cannons on the Vietnamese warships and damaged all four Vietnamese ships, especially the Nhật Tảo, which could not retreat because her last working engine was disabled. The crew was ordered to abandon ship, but her captain, Lt. Commander Ngụy Văn Thà, remained on board and went down with his ship. The Lý Thường Kiệt, severely damaged by friendly fire from the Trần Bình Trọng, was forced to retreat westwards. The Trần Khánh Dư and Trần Bình Trọng soon joined in the retreat. The next day, Chinese aircraft from Hainan
Hainan
bombed the three islands, and an amphibious landing was made. The outnumbered South Vietnamese marine garrison on the islands was forced to surrender, and the damaged navy ships retreated to Đà Nẵng. During the battle, the Vietnamese fleet detected two more Chinese warships rushing to the area. China
China
later acknowledged these were the Hainan-class submarine chasers #281 and #282. Despite South Vietnamese reports that at least one of their ships had been struck by a missile, the Chinese insisted what the Vietnamese saw were rocket-propelled grenades fired by the crew of #389 and that no missile-capable ships were present, and the Chinese ships closed in because they had no missiles. The South Vietnamese fleet also received warnings that U.S. Navy radar had detected additional Chinese guided missile frigates and aircraft on their way from Hainan. South Vietnam
South Vietnam
requested assistance from the U.S. Seventh Fleet, but the request was denied.[6][7] Result[edit]

Letter from South Vietnam's General Staff of the Republic of Vietnam Military Forces, dated 02-18-74, concerning the Battle of the Paracel Islands

Following the battle, China
China
gained control over all of the Paracel Islands. South Vietnam
South Vietnam
protested to the United Nations, but China, having veto power on the UN Security Council, blocked any efforts to bring it up.[8] The remote islands had little value militarily, but diplomatically the projection of power was beneficial to China.[9][10] Vietnamese casualties[edit] The South Vietnamese reported that the warship Nhật Tảo was sunk and the Lý Thường Kiệt heavily damaged, while the Trần Khánh Dư and Trần Bình Trọng were both slightly damaged. Fifty-three Vietnamese soldiers, including Captain Ngụy Văn Thà of the Nhật Tảo, were killed, and 16 were injured. On January 20, 1974, the Dutch tanker, Kopionella, found and rescued 23 survivors of the sunken Nhật Tảo. On January 29, 1974, Vietnamese fishermen found 15 Vietnamese soldiers near Mũi Yến (Qui Nhơn) who had fought on Quang Hòa island and escaped in lifeboats. After their successful amphibious assault on January 20, the Chinese held 48 prisoners, including an American advisor.[5] They were later released in Hong Kong
Hong Kong
through the Red Cross. Chinese casualties[edit] The Chinese claimed that even though its ships had all been hit numerous times, none of them had been sunk. Warships #271 and #396 suffered speed-reducing damage to their engines, but both returned to port safely and were repaired. Warship #274 was damaged more extensively and had to stop at Yongxing Island for emergency repairs. It returned to Hainan
Hainan
under its own power the next day. Warship #389 was damaged the most by an engine room explosion. Its captain managed to run his ship aground and put out the fire with the help of the minesweepers. It was then towed back to base. Eighteen Chinese sailors were killed and 67 were wounded in the battle.[11] Aftermath[edit] A potential diplomatic crisis was averted when China
China
released the American prisoner taken during the battle. Gerald Emil Kosh, 27, a former U.S. Army captain, was captured with the Vietnamese on Pattle Island. He was described as a “regional liaison officer” for the American embassy in Saigon
Saigon
on assignment with the South Vietnamese Navy.[8] China
China
released him from custody on January 31 without comment.[12][13] The leaders of North Vietnam
North Vietnam
gave a glimpse of their worsening relationship with China
China
by conspicuously not congratulating their ally. An official communique issued by the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam
South Vietnam
mentioned only its desire for a peaceful and negotiated resolution for any local territorial dispute. In the wake of the battle, North Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyễn Cơ Thạch
Nguyễn Cơ Thạch
told the Hungarian ambassador to Hanoi that "there are many documents and data about that the islands in question are Vietnamese." Other North Vietnamese cadres told the Hungarian diplomats that in their view, the conflict between China
China
and the Saigon
Saigon
regime was but a temporary one. However, they later said the issue would be a problem of the entire Vietnamese nation.[14] After the reunification of Vietnam
Vietnam
in April 1975, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Vietnam
publicly renewed its claim to the Paracels, and the dispute continues to this day. Hanoi has praised the South Vietnamese forces that took part in the battle.[15] See also[edit]

Naval history of China Johnson South Reef
Johnson South Reef
Skirmish

Notes[edit]

^ Security Implications of Conflict in the South China
China
Sea: Exploring Potential Triggers of Conflict A Pacific Forum CSIS Special
Special
Report, của Ralph A. Cossa, Washington, D.C. Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1998, trang B-2 ^ Nhân Dân No. 1653, September 22, 1958 [6] ^ Dyadic Militarized Interstate Disputes Data (DyMID), version 2.0 tabulations ^ Hải Chiến Hoàng Sa, Bão biển Đệ Nhị Hải Sư, Australia, 1989, page 101 ^ DyMID ^ This warship had been the USCGC Chincoteague (WHEC-375), and was transferred to South Vietnam
South Vietnam
and renamed RVNS Trần Bình Trọng (HQ-05). It was transferred to the Philippines and renamed RPS Andrés Bonifacio (PF-7) in 1975 when South Vietnam
South Vietnam
fell. ^ This warship had been the USS Bering Strait (AVP-34), and was transferred to South Vietnam
South Vietnam
and renamed RVNS Lý Thường Kiệt (HQ-16). It was transferred to the Philippines and renamed RPS Diego Silang (PF-9) in 1975 when South Vietnam
South Vietnam
fell. ^ This warship was the USS Forster (DE-334), loaned to South Vietnam
Vietnam
on September 25, 1971 and renamed RVNS Trần Khánh Dư (HQ-04). Captured by North Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon
Saigon
and was renamed Dai Ky (HQ-03). ^ This warship had been the USS Serene (AM-300), and was transferred to South Vietnam
South Vietnam
January 24, 1964. It was re-designated as RVNS Nhật Tảo (HQ-10). ^ Counterpart, A South Vietnamese Naval Officer's War Kiem Do and Julie Kane, Naval Institute, Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1998, chương 10. ^ Thế Giới Lên Án Trung Cộng Xâm Lăng Hoàng Sa Của VNCH. Tài liệu Tổng cục Chiến tranh Chính trị, Bộ Tổng tham mưu QLVNCH, Sài Gòn, 1974, trang 11. ^ 西沙海战――痛击南越海军, Xinhua, January 20, 2003, online 西沙海战详解[图], online.

References[edit]

^ Tài liệu Trung Quốc về Hải chiến Hoàng Sa: Lần đầu hé lộ về vũ khí Hải chiến Hoàng Sa Thanh Niên ^ Danh sách các quân nhân Việt Nam Cộng Hòa hi sinh trong Hải chiến Hoàng Sa 1974, Thanh Niên Online, 09/01/2014 ^ Frivel, M. Taylor. "Offshore Island Disputes". Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China's Territorial Disputes. Princeton University Press. pp. 267–299.  ^ Thomas J. Cutler, The Battle for the Paracel Islands, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD. Retrieved on 4-24-2009. ^ Monique Chemillier-Gendreau, Sovereignty Over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, p.3, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2000. ISBN 90-411-1381-9. Retrieved on 4-24-2009. ^ "U.S. Cautioned 7th Fleet to Shun Paracels Clash". The New York Times. Reuters. 22 January 1974. Retrieved 22 December 2016.  ^ "Chinese, Viet Rift Shunned by U.S." Albuquerque Journal. Albuquerque, NM. AP. 21 January 1974. Retrieved 22 December 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  ^ a b Gwertzman, Bernard (26 January 1974). "Peking Reports Holding U.S. Aide". The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved 20 July 2016.  ^ Markham, James M. (19 January 1974). " Saigon
Saigon
Reports Clash with China". The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved 20 July 2016.  ^ Shipler, David K. (21 January 1974). " Saigon
Saigon
Says Chinese Control Islands, But Refuses to Admit Complete Defeat". The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved 20 July 2016.  ^ Carl O. Schustser. "Battle for Paracel Islands". ^ The World: Storm in the China
China
Sea - TIME ^ "American Captured on Disputed Island is Freed by China". The New York Times. New York, NY. Reuters. 31 January 1974. Retrieved 20 July 2016.  ^ Balázs Szalontai, Im lặng nhưng không đồng tình. BBC Vietnam, March 24, 2009: Im lặng nhưng không đồng tình bbc.co.uk/vietnamese ^ For an overview of Hanoi's reactions to the Chinese occupation of the Paracels in 1974–1975, see also Chi-kin Lo, China's Policy toward Territorial Disputes. The Case of the South China
China
Sea Islands (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), pp. 86–98.

Further reading[edit]

New York Times, " Saigon
Saigon
Says China
China
Bombs 3 Isles and Lands Troops". 1/20/74. New York Times, "23 Vietnamese Survivors of Sea Battle Are Found". 1/23/74. Yoshihara, Toshi. "The 1974 Paracels Sea Battle: A Campaign Appraisal". Naval War College Review. Naval War College Press. 69 (2): 41–65. Archived from the original on August 1, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Overview of the battle by a Vietnamese officer The Official Document of The Republic Of Vietnam's Armed Forces about the Paracels Naval Battle in 1974 Paracels Islands Dispute A Collection of Documents on Paracel and Spratly Islands
Spratly Islands
by Nguyen Thai Hoc Foundation GlobalSecurity.org

v t e

Armed conflicts involving the People's Republic of China

Internal

Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
(1927–50) Kuomintang Islamic insurgency (1950–58) Kuomintang insurgency (1949-1961) Battle of Chamdo (1950) Tibetan uprising (1959) Xinjiang conflict
Xinjiang conflict
(1980–present) Tiananmen Square protests (1989)

Cross- Taiwan
Taiwan
Strait (vs Taiwan) (after 1 Oct 1949)

Kuningtou (1949) Dengbu Island (1949) Hainan
Hainan
Island (1950) Nanri Island (1952) Dongshan Island (1953) Yijiangshan Islands (1955) Dachen Archipelago (1955) Second Taiwan
Taiwan
Strait Crisis (1958) Burmese border Dong-Yin (1965) Third Taiwan
Taiwan
Strait Crisis (1995–96)

Others

vs USSR

Sino-Soviet border conflict
Sino-Soviet border conflict
(1969)

vs United States
United States
and allies

Korean War
Korean War
(1950–53) Vietnam War
Vietnam War
(1965–70)

vs India

Sino-Indian War
Sino-Indian War
(1962) Chola incident
Chola incident
(1967) Sino-Indian skirmish (1987) Sino-Indian Standoff (2017)

vs South Vietnam/Vietnam

Paracel Islands
Paracel Islands
(1974) Sino-Vietnamese War
Sino-Vietnamese War
(1979) Sino-Vietnamese conflicts 1979–90 Johnson South Reef Skirmish
Johnson South Reef Skirmish
(1988)

See also

Incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China Incorporation of Xinjiang into the People's Republic of China

v t e

South China
China
Sea

Pratas Islands

Pratas Island

Paracel Islands

Amphitrite Group

Rocky Island Tree Island West Sand Woody Island Qilian Yu

Crescent Group

Money Island Robert Island Yagong Island

Other features

Bombay Reef Triton Island

NorthEast SCS

Zhongsha Islands Macclesfield Bank

Walker Shoal

Scarborough Shoal

Spratly Islands

List of maritime features in the Spratly Islands Great Wall of Sand Royal Malaysian Navy Offshore Bases Vietnamese DK1 rigs List of airports in the Spratly Islands

Dangerous Ground

NW

North Danger Reef

Northeast Cay Southwest Cay

Thitu Reefs

Thitu Island Subi Reef

Loaita Bank

Lankiam Cay Loaita Island

Tizard Bank

Ban Than Reef Gaven Reefs Itu Aba Namyit Island Sand Cay

NNW

Irving Reef West York Island

WNW

Western Reef

NE

Flat Island Nanshan Island Reed Bank Third Thomas Shoal

SE

Commodore Reef First Thomas Shoal Mischief Reef Sabina Shoal Second Thomas Shoal

SW

Union Banks

Collins Reef Hughes Reef Johnson South Reef Sin Cowe Island

Ardasier Reef Cornwallis South Reef Dallas Reef Erica Reef Investigator Shoal Mariveles Reef

West

London Reefs

Central London Reef Cuarteron Reef East London Reef West London Reef

Bombay Castle Fiery Cross Reef Ladd Reef Spratly Island

East

Royal Captain Shoal Half Moon Shoal

South

Amboyna Cay Louisa Reef Swallow Reef

Southern SCS

James Shoal Luconia Shoals

Tudjuh Archipelago

Natuna Islands Anambas Islands Badas Islands Tambelan Archipelago

History

Territorial disputes History of the Spratly Islands Nine-Dash Line Spratly Islands
Spratly Islands
dispute Philippines and the Spratly Islands Battle of the Paracel Islands
Paracel Islands
(1974) Southwest Cay
Southwest Cay
incident (1975) Johnson South Reef Skirmish
Johnson South Reef Skirmish
(1988) Scarborough Shoal
Scarborough Shoal
standoff (2012) Hai Yang Shi You 981 standoff
Hai Yang Shi You 981 standoff
(2014)

Transport

Ships

Coconut Princess

Airports

Pratas Is Paracel Islands
Paracel Islands
Airports

Woody Is

Spratly Islands
Spratly Islands
Airports

Itu Aba Spratly Is Swallow Reef Thitu Is

Coordinates: 16°30′N 111°38′E / 16.500°N 111.633°E

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