Even after the Agreements of 6 March 1946, it was considered that
‘It is for France, on behalf of Annam, to assert its rights in the wider world.’
That included both the Paracels and theSpratlys.
In a telegram of August 1946, the French High Commissioner in Saigon indicated to thenaval attache that France controlled the Paracels and that
every ship planning to putinto port there must request authorization to do so from the High Commissioner.
The Paracels were the subject of negotiations with (Nationalist) China from February toJuly 1947.
These talks were unproductive but were an opportunity for France toreaffirm its rights and to propose that they be put to arbitration.
Later on (from 1951 to 1955), the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs even sought toassert that
the Spratlys could not be Vietnamese, that their attachment to CochinChina had been purely administrative and that these (French) islands were now tocome under the French Department of Overseas Territories
This argument wasreiterated in a Note from the Department for Asia-Oceania of 11 July 1955… It was notto resurface after that date even though France never explicitly abandoned the Spratlys.
On 16 June 1955,
French Commissioner General in Indochina,referred to a secret letter of agreement of 15 March 1949 addressed to Emperor BaoDai
, in which the High Commissioner, commenting on the Agreements of 8 March 1949,apparently
recognized Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Paracels though remainedsilent on the Spratlys.
The French position during this period was recognized andsupported by other countries. An example was Great Britain which turned to France in1948 with a request for permission to use Lincoln Island for military exercises, and afurther example was the Australian Government which said it was prepared, on theoccasion of the drafting of the peace treaty with Japan, to back up the claims of theFrench Union.
The intentions of the Chinese were also very clear as regards the Paracels
. Any passage by aFrench vessel was challenged and protests were sent to the French Consul in Canton.
In 1947,negotiations on the Paracels were held in Paris because holding them in Nanking was impossibleowing to the intransigence of Chinese public opinion. In the negotiations, the Chinese took avery hard line and made the evacuation of Pattle Island by the French detachment a preconditionof pursuing the talks.
This was Nationalist China, which would appear to have pulled out inMay 1950, though the People’s Republic of China took over the Chinese claims on its own behalf and asserted them in no uncertain terms, not only for the Paracels but the Spratlys as well.
During this period, the representatives of the Vietnamese people reaffirmed the sovereignty of Vietnam. The French authorities indicated this
in a telegram dated 23 April 1949 to theMinistry of Foreign Affairs,
in which it was stated that a
lecture by Bao Dai’s
had provoked an incident on the subject of the Paracels.
And Mr Pignon, author of the telegram, explained that he had been obliged to give
an assurance that the HighCommissioner
‘considered the Paracels to be a crown dependency of Annam’
and that he