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Posted by : Mahadi Mahbol Khamis, Februari 10, 2011

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In the early months of 1988, the Chinese navy had landed troops on five reefs and atolls that belong to the area of Spratly Islands. Three of them lie quite near the large islands of which Vietnam is in possession. The Vietnamese navy then ferried supplies and equipment to six other reefs and atolls. They successfully gained control of them and prevent the Chinese navy from extending their occupied zone into the other islands. In early March, the High Command of Vietnamese navy decided to take control over three reefs because they were still being fallow and form an open chain of reefs around Sin Cowe island that were in control of Vietnam. On March 13th, in late evening three transport ships of Vietnam arrived in time at those reefs and set up the flags to present Vietnamese sovereignty over them. However, some hours after the Vietnamese transport ships had reached target, four large Chinese warships got close to the Vietnamese and switched on the warning loudspeaker. They were equipped with advanced 100mm guns, missiles and torpedoes. Despite threat from Chinese warships, the Vietnamese transport ships patiently kept dropped anchor beside the reefs. They were not enough powerful to confront the Chinese and did not advocate escalating the conflict. The strain continued until early morning when the Chinese floated the boats and caused more conflicts for the battle breaking out. All the Chinese, especially soldiers, are taught that the ocean area of Spratly islands with hundreds islands, reefs and atolls belongs to China, although it lies at a distance of over 1000 km far from the undermost Chinese coast at Hainan island. The Chinese continued being ordered to take an oath before every floating boats that carried many armed marines.

The Chinese boats rushed straight towards the reefs and approached the Vietnamese transport ships. Standing on the reefs on which the water level covers the half of their bodies, the Vietnamese sailors set up commanding positions along edge of the reefs to lay the defending lines and try to prevent the enemy from advancing forward. Seen from the air, they formed a circle. The Vietnamese defenders were absolutely outnumbered by Chinese troops and also were being threatened to be retreat from the reefs on which the flags were already planted as reaffirmation of sovereignty. Just because Vietnamese navy had refused to withdraw troops from the reef, the Chinese then used battleships for firing with 37 mm directly on the unarmed and light armed Vietnamese sailors on the reefs who were not able to attack them in their defending positions. They also fired with 100mm gun on the three Vietnamese transport ships and seriously damaged them, until two of them sank.64 Vietnamese sailors and officers lost their lives, among them were only 3 corpse were found after the end of battle,61 other persons still missed and reputedly dead. During the clash, two students in practice training from Academy of Vietnamese navy died while taking part in fighting on one of Vietnamese transports. The Chinese claim of their own casualties: 6 killed and 21 injured in combat. Eventually Vietnam defended successfully sovereignty over two reefs on that day. China has occupied the other ones since that incident.

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