#International Affairs
Political Scientists, Politicians, Historians, Geographers, Asians

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Three American scholars -Dr. Ngo Vinh Long, Dr. Tai Van Ta and Dr. Vu Quang Viet- have joined together and requested the National Geographic Society to remove the notation that Parace Islands belonging to China on the NGS World Political Map.

Following is the full text of their letter to the NGS:

March 12, 2010

1145 17th St, NW
Washington, D.C 20036-4688

Attn: Mr. Chris Johns, Editor in Chief

Dear Mr. Chris Johns,

The new World Political Map (Item 22005C, 2009), published by the National Geographic Society (NGS), shows the Paracel Islands in Southeast Asia (SEA) as belonging to China, in contrary to the 1943 and 1994 maps. This must be an error that puts the NGS as taking side on the disputed status of the archipelago whose legal status has not been arbitrated by any international legal body. In the interest of scholarship and fairness, we ask you to consider corrective actions based on the following facts:

1. Both China and Vietnam have presented historic evidences of their possession of the Paracels dating back to the 15th century. In the 19th and 20th century, the Paracels were identified as part of Vietnam when it was a protectorate of France. It was returned to South Vietnam in 1954 and the South Vietnamese posted garrisons and exploited natural resources there. In 1974, taking advantage of the American withdrawal from South Vietnam, China attacked the South Vietnamese and took the archipelago over by force. Since then Vietnam never ceded rights to the archipelago and international scholars classed it as “disputed”. There are numerous documents regarding these facts. Due to lack of space, we cite only the following:
• DK Digital Maps for 21st Century, published by Oxford University Press, page 179.
• http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,908427,00.html
• http://www.seasfoundation.org/library/cat_view/30-tai-liu-ting-anh

2. China has claimed practically the entire SEA waters bordered by Hainan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines as its maritime territory (see map). It uses Paracels and some islands of the Spratly archipelagos, which it also took over by force in a 1988 bloody invasion, as centerpieces of the claim. It is building a nuclear navy base on Hainan and several airfields on the Paracels and Spratlys in order to patrol this vast expanse of international water; claiming all mineral rights; forbidding the fishing activities of Southeast Asian countries; and controlling the vital sea routes between Singapore and Japan. In fact, it has challenged the presence of the United States in the area by harassing U.S. signals surveillance planes and research ships (e.g., April 1, 2000, incident regarding the US Navy 1EP-3 aircraft and the March 8, 2009, incident regarding the US Navy ship Impeccable.)

3. Currently SEA countries and China have submitted papers with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) governing body, outlining competing claims and professing adherence to the convention. While an international effort to mediate and arbitrate the claims appears rational, China insists on dealing with the smaller nations one-on-one, leaving interested parties such as the United States, India, Japan, Russia and other SEA nations out of the talks. The disputed nature of the Paracels and Spratlys is clear and potentially dangerous to world peace.

The NGS publications and maps are widely read and consulted all over the world for references. Your corrective actions for the hopefully inadvertent error will confirm the reputation of the NGS that it does not take side in disputed geopolitical matters.

We request that you return the annotation in National Geographic’s 2006 Atlas of the World, which states that: “Paracels Islands:administered by China, claimed by Vietnam”, which is more accurately representing current situation.

Thank you for your attention.


Ngo Vinh Long, Ph.D., Professor of Asian Studies and US-Asian Relations, University of Maine.

Tai Van Ta, Ph.D., former Saigon Law School Professor and Law Lecturer and Research Associate, Harvard Law School, Attorney at law.

Vu Quang Viet, Ph.D., former Chief of National Accounts Statistics, United Nations. Author of several papers presented at Workshop “South China Sea Disputes in Vietnamese Context” on November 18, 2009 at the Council of Southeast Asian Center, Yale University.

Considering the international dispute pointed out by the respected scholars, we the undersigned request that the National Geograhic Society remove the notation China under the Paracel Islands on all National Geographic Society maps.

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The National Geographic Society World Political Map Error petition to Political Scientists, Politicians, Historians, Geographers, Asians was written by Long Pham and is in the category International Affairs at GoPetition.

Petition Tags

South East Asia Conflict